When Eliot Butler and Rob LoBreglio met as college students in New York they had no idea that their friendship would develop into starting one of the first Brewpubs in Wisconsin, The Great Dane. The first location opened up on the corner of Doty Street in 1994. The Great Dane has valued the importance of sustainability during its 27 years of operation.
“We have a responsibility to leave the planet better off than when we found it. [We] do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do,” shared Butler. Expanding on how sustainability is seen in the restaurant industry he noted, “nowadays, it is also a marketing tool, that’s not why it’s important to me but it makes it easier to make it important in a business model.” Also some projects reduce costs such as recycled oil. “We used to pay to have our grease traps emptied, now we get paid for it for the oil,” Butler said.
Some of the projects and efforts at Great Dane to reduce their environmental footprint include:
- Recent menu expansion of eight new vegetarian items
- Spent grain is recycled to local farmers
- Coasters are produced on recycled paper
- Water is only provided when requested
- Menu available by QR code, an option they are experimenting with at some locations. For the first 20 years in operation, The Great Dane menus were printed on locally recycled newsprint with soy based ink, a concept ahead of its time.
- Recycle oil from their operations
- In the future Butler is also keeping his eye on how to implement composting and food waste tracking at The Great Dane.
In addition to continuing to expand sustainable initiatives at The Great Dane, Butler plans to open a vegan fast casual restaurant downtown. At the new place he will be able to experiment with pushing the envelope on sustainable business operations such as bike delivery options, transparency on cost and location of food and an all vegan menu. In discussion of how to encourage meatless meals and new food options, he said that “having that fake meat product is a really great way to get omnivores to experiment with eating more vegetarian food.”
The restaurant industry as a whole took a major hit with the pandemic. While the previous month has seen an uptick in business, it still hasn’t reached pre-pandemic numbers. With the pandemic, “a lot of green considerations took a backseat to public health and safety” however they are trying to start up some of these practices again. With a large portion of orders being take out and delivery that meant a lot more packaging materials which they tried to lessen the impact by making the switch to plant based compostable materials as well as highlighting an order option to not include disposable cutlery.
At the end of our time with Eliot he shared how valuable it is to center people in their operations and keep in mind their impact in the community, “it’s not just the shareholders who should profit, it should also be the community that’s made you so successful…We like to walk the walk.” ❖