Red Lobster is going green. Darden Restaurants, which owns the seafood chain as well as Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, is launching a new sustainable restaurant design initiative. The initiative will require that all new restaurants be built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards. Additionally, restaurant remodels will need to be built following the LEED Rating Systems code when feasible.
The initiative is launching with eight restaurants that have been built, or are in the process of being built, to achieve LEED certification. Two Red Lobster locations are on track to open this year as well as two more in 2011. Additionally, the Olive Garden in Jonesboro, Ark., which opened last month, was built to LEED standards. A second Olive Garden restaurant will be opened later this year and one more next year. Lastly, a single LongHorn Steakhouse restaurant, which should open next year, is part of the Darden Restaurants LEED certified restaurant pilot.
The Jonesboro Olive Garden used recycled building materials, increased the use of windows in the restaurant to allow for more natural lighting, used low-flow plumbing and Energy Star rated appliances in the kitchen, and has a system installed to reclaim the heat from the condensing units on the HVAC system as well as the condensing units on the freezer to help heat the hot water used in the kitchen.
In discussing the new initiative, Suk Singh, senior vice president of Development for Darden Restaurants said, “Our goal with this initiative is to utilize each of the eight restaurants as a learning lab. While we may not seek LEED certification for every restaurant we build or remodel, we can make a positive impact by learning from the eight restaurants where we are seeking LEED certification and applying best practices across our entire portfolio.” Source: Darden Restaurants
While I think that moving towards a more sustainable restaurant design is a great first move, I would love to see the restaurants also focus on more sustainable menu items. It would be great to open up the menu and see organic or locally sourced options available. There is more to sustainability than simply focusing on the building’s footprint, however it is definitely a step in the right direction.