Leveraging partnerships for energy savings

Energy saving may not be “an overly sexy conversation to have at eight in the morning,” acknowledged OSI Restaurant Partners’ vice president of procurement, Kristin Brooks. But a standing-room-only audience showed up at that hour during the Restaurant Leadership Conference to hear the Outback Steakhouse parent’s experiences in cutting utility costs.

The energy program at OSI started as a party of one, managing $100 million in costs, and grew into a “lean and mean” team of six, responsible for over 1000 locations of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s, Bonefish Grill, Roy’s and Fleming’s worldwide.

“We manage 1.2 billion dollars in spend, so we need to be able to see exactly, farm to fork, what makes up that cost,” said Brooks.

How do they manage so much with such a small staff?

“We leverage our vendor partners very well, and it’s something I think is our ‘secret sauce’ of how we operate,” explains Brooks. “Leverage the history and expertise of the vendor against your needs and mission to find the right partner.”

To find the right energy partner, look for a company with:

  1. An unbiased perspective that sits on your side of the fence. “Someone who can talk straight to you and give you the best opportunities in each state, regardless of vendor,” said Brooks.
  2. They need to be aware of changes in the market and have responses for them.
  3. Trusted recommendations to get you past the initial RFP’s and gut reactions.
  4. Consolidated data and contract management. “We wanted all of our bills and contracts in one spot,” said Brooks. “Especially from a legal perspective.”
  5. Capability to help you capture all possible savings.

“You never want to be lulled to sleep, either,” said Brooks, when asked if they’ve researched other partners since signing with Summit Energy in 2005. “We’ve been challenged to look at other partnerships in the industry. We do that on an ongoing basis with our partnerships across the board.”

“If you begin to open restaurants in new markets, understand those energy rate options that are out there and ensure that you’re on that best regulated rate, even though there may not be a third-party de-regulation opportunity, “ counseled  Bill Brewer, vice president of sourcing and sustainability for Summit Energy. “It still drives bottom-line value.”

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