Glen Peloso, principal of Glen Peloso Interiors, is a familiar face to many Canadians.

The “interior designing guru of Toronto” is a contributor both to the Food Network’s Restaurant Makeover and to the W Network’s Take This House and Sell It, and is also a frequent guest on shows like Breakfast Television.

We were lucky enough to tap his restaurant-design expertise and see what he thought about sustainable design in the restaurant biz.

In your work, have you seen an increased emphasis on sustainable or green design? What are people’s top priorities?

Everyone that is building out a restaurant is concerned for the environment and selecting eco-friendly products. The cost of opening a restaurant can sometimes make that choice unaffordable initially, even though I might explain the long term savings. Lighting and using recycled materials are generally the most selected green items.

As a design firm, we try to select sustainable materials as much as possible and incorporate them into the design—however finance is generally more important than sustainability. Occasionally some education around which eco-friendly products are available is important as well—we try to present alternatives to help clients select well.

What are some of the challenges working with energy efficient products and technologies?

Working around HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] and ventilation can be an issue in the interior design, however that tends to be an issue regardless of how “sustainable” that HVAC system is.

Generally I don’t select CFL light bulbs for patron areas. LED lighting gets used much more often because it most resembles pot lighting. Decorative fixtures can’t usually accommodate the CFL bulbs, and the difficulty with dimming is a serious concern for creating ambience. Solar panels generally don’t affect the interior space, but can affect the engineering aspects more.

As a designer, what do you see is the biggest challenge towards incorporating energy-efficient or green measures?

The biggest stumbling block is cost. A foodservice corporation like CARA has the ability to capitalize on the initial investment of sustainable  products, reaping the benefits over the long term, but the cost is a problem for many smaller restaurateurs.

The appearance concerns the design team most, with the understanding that ambience directly impacts the establishment’s bottom line. There are many possible eco-friendly choices that are very beautiful, and generally I would sell those products initially based on look, with the sustainable aspect as a “cap.”

Do you have any tips for restaurant owners who want to “go green” in their design?

  • LED lighting
  • Eco Glass or paper stone as a surface on bars and tables
  • Bamboo flooring
  • Reclaimed materials in the design
  • Recycled equipment in the construction.
  • Speak to the landlord about partnering on the green efforts
  • Publicize that you are an eco conscious establishment

Suggest to the engineer that you want to be as eco-friendly as possible, and you may realize that the ROI is worth the initial cash outlay.

What are some of the easiest or most cost-effective ways for a restaurant to “go green”? How would you recommend restaurants communicate their green efforts to their patrons?

The easiest ways are to use sustainable materials and recycle the daily elements of running a restaurant.  For communicating, print the “green efforts” you make on your menus and, depending the kind of establishment, encourage your patrons to assist in the “green” effort with designated disposal systems.

Have you redesigned your restaurant with “green” in mind? Share your story in the comments section.

Image credit: Glen Peloso