Quality is top priority at Kimpton Hotels Restaurants. What steps can a Kimpton hotel manager take…

Kimpton Hotels Puts Green Initiatives to Work

It one thing for a company to talk about green initiatives; it quite another for the firm to put those initiatives into practice. Kimpton Hotels Restaurants began putting green initiatives to work in its hotels and restaurants nearly thirty years ago, long before these practices became popular. Of course, it the operations function of the business that implements this type of plan; it the hotel manager, the dishwasher in the restaurant, the housekeeping staff, the front desk clerk. How we do what we do defines us, observes NikiLeondakis, COO of Chapter 10 Production and Operations Management 345 Kimpton Hotels Restaurants, which runs 50 boutiquestyleluxury hotels and restaurants across the U.S.

Although Kimpton began its green practices long ago, in 2005 the company launched a company-wide program called EarthCare in order to standardize these practices across all of its hotels and restaurants. Frank Kawecki, director of operations for KimptonRestaurants in the Northeast, recalls that Kimpton green efforts started first in the restaurants with the chefs, then spread. When the EarthCare program began, the company asked for volunteers from each property who were devoted to the green effort because they were already committed to the idea and could communicate best between management and staff. Volunteers ranged from bartenders to general managers who were willing to meet once a month. One of the first initiatives—which came from restaurant servers—was to eliminate imported bottled water, shifting instead to locally bottled water and the use of recycled water bottles.

As EarthCare has expanded throughout the company, standard guidelines have been set for nearly every facet of the firm operation. Home office materials and procedures include shifting to online publication of many documents; using post-consumer recycled paper and eco-friendly inks for those documents that are printed; making hotel keycards from recycled plastic; offering continuous education in green initiatives for staff, and more. At the hotels themselves, all hotel in-room materials and bills are printed on recycled paper; phone books are offered by request only; all plumbing is water-efficient; lighting is LED or CFL, and subject to motion sensors; rooms are stocked with greencertified linens and towels; guest room soaps are made of natural ingredients, and carpet cleaning is done with nontoxic products. If the list seems endless, it nearly is—and the complexity of the operations management required to implement standards such as these is daunting.

Waste management is a category unto itself, with hotel and restaurant-wide recycling and reuse of everything from cardboard and paper to batteries and computers. Restaurants in particular present a huge challenge. There an enormous amount of waste from a lot of restaurants, observes Frank Kawecki. A lot of it can be composted, recycled, or reused. There can be a 40-percent savings in waste removal. Waste removal was traditionally a fixed expense that we have manipulated, through EarthCare. In addition to reducing waste and energy use, Kimpton restaurants purchase and serve as many certified organic products as possible, ranging from local produce and seafood to coffee, tea, and wine. Saving the planet can be expensive. Running a business incurs costs as well. One of the challenges of implementing the EarthCare program is monitoring costs.

Green efforts can’t compromise the experience for our guests and it can’t cost our shareholders more money. If we go out of business, saving the planet as hoteliers goes away, notes NikiLeondakis. So that premise was very good in helping us decide what we would tackle first— water savings, energy savings. Whatever is good for the planet has to be good for the bottom line. One way that Kimpton Hotels meets this goal is by looking at ways for certain costs to off-set each other. If purchasing recycled paper costs more, there might be a way to find savings in another area. We put measurements on all of our efforts to see what impact they have on the bottom line, says Leondakis. We’ve still been able to say that it saves us money.

Recently Kimpton Hotels announced its plan to seek third-party Green Seal certification on all 50 of its properties; ten properties have already been certified. Green Seal certification involves an application process and evaluation similar to LEED certification, which the company is also seeking for its new or renovated properties. It will be an ongoing work in progress forever, predicts Leondakis. But Kimpton Hotels has a head start.

Questions for Critical Thinking

1. Location is certainly a production factor for Kimpton Hotels Restaurants, which are located in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle. What location factors might Kimpton managers consider when thinking about whether to acquire or build a new Kimpton hotel and restaurant?

2. According to the EarthCare program, what factors might a Kimpton restaurant chef or manager consider when selecting suppliers?

3. A daily staff meeting at a Kimpton hotel can be considered part of production control, contributing to the smooth running of the hotel. Who might attend such a meeting? What kinds of topics might they discuss?

4. Quality is top priority at Kimpton Hotels Restaurants. What steps can a Kimpton hotel manager take to balance quality and the initiatives of the Earth Care program?

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