ENGIE Impact met with Roger Goldstein, Executive Director of Facilities and Energy at Panda Restaurant Group to discuss the company’s Innovation Kitchen in Pasadena, CA. This location serves as a platform to explore new menu items, as well as new sustainable operations strategies to reduce energy, water, and waste.
Transcript edited for clarity
ENGIE Impact: Panda Express is an innovator in sustainability – how are you continuously improving your efforts?
Roger: The Innovation Kitchen. Panda is always looking for ways to improve what we’re doing. This store is all about new finishes and interior designs, introducing our Tea Bar concept, new menu items and new equipment and cooking platforms.
Another area of innovation is the equipment and the energy footprint we have. We are always looking to see if we can get a piece of equipment to be more efficient and assessing cost versus benefit balances. We have made several new innovations in the area of gas efficiency and savings. Our burner style and our complete serving line have gone from a steam table that uses hot water to an induction table. Panda is always taking action to be a part of the communities we are in, so the world is our community. Sustainability is on everybody’s mind and that lets us look for more opportunities to transform our stores and be more sustainable.
ENGIE Impact: How do you engage your employees to create success in your zero-waste program?
Roger: When we talk to our employees about sustainability and helping the environment, they immediately want to support us. Environment and culture are a continuous lifelong learning process, so we never stop educating and working with our teams and operators to help them improve.
ENGIE Impact: What’s next for the Panda Express waste management program?
Roger: We have to meet the demands of more municipalities and states that are putting regulations on waste. The regulations are good, they follow our same desire of being more sustainable. For instance, the state of California is mandating that businesses separate their organics, their compostable food waste from their garbage and from their recyclable waste. That’s the next big challenge, making sure our business model can accommodate those changes and help drive sustainability even further.
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