Restaurant Hospitality's inaugural Power List this year focuses on restaurant operators who use their businesses to change the world in big and small ways. We call them Change Agents. See the full list >>
Restaurant: Eight-unit Bellagreen, based in Houston
Change: Reducing use of plastic by 50 percent
The small Houston-based restaurant chain Ruggles Green was pretty eco-friendly when private-equity firm Hargett Hunter Capital Partners bought it in 2016. It was Houston’s first concept to be certified by the Green Restaurant Association.
But the chain’s new owners wanted to do so much more, putting sustainability front and center for the fast-casual brand, said Jason Morgan, managing partner of Hargett Hunter.
In 2017, Ruggles Green was completely rebranded as Bellagreen, a name designed to reflect the goal of creating beautiful food while striving to make the world a more beautiful place, said Morgan, who is also CEO of parent company Bellagreen Holdings LLC.
“We made the decision to double down on the green part of the business,” he said.
The thread runs throughout the now eight-unit chain: The restaurants are powered by alternative energy, such as wind and solar. The chain contracts out recycling everything from cardboard to glass. Fundraisers benefit local and state foundations that protect and plant trees, and for every $2 raised, a sapling is planted.
Perhaps most importantly, Bellagreen in 2017 made the commitment to reduce use of plastics by half within a year.
Morgan said restaurants are shifting to only paper straws. All to-go bags are now made with recycled paper. No polystyrene is used for packaging, and to-go meals are packed in either paper or a biodegradable clamshell. Cups are also made with biodegradable material, and real china and silverware is used for dine-in orders.
There is more work to be done. Morgan said he would like to phase out plastic cutlery. And the process is not inexpensive.
“We are going to incur close to $30,000 in additional expense with those changes next year, but we think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
When you consider the energy-use savings, the economic model for the brand works, he said. The company is planning another Dallas location in the first quarter of 2019, and then will look for additional sites in either the Houston or Dallas markets by 2020.
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