Carlos Suarez says he believes good business is all about doing good. To that end, the owner of Bobo, which opened in New York’s West Village last year, says the restaurant, whose name is an abbreviation of the phrase “bourgeois bohemian,” is dedicated both to serving good food and operating in an eco-friendly manner that benefits the community.
How did you make Bobo environmentally friendly?
We took a look at various things we could do to take a step forward, and the most obvious practice was to stop selling bottled water. That’s been in practice since day one; we’ve never sold it here. Prior to opening, we researched a variety of purification systems. Now we offer still and sparkling water and charge our guests $1 each. The net proceeds are then donated to water-related charities. We thought that was one obvious exercise or system we could implement from the beginning.
We also worked with Con Ed on their renewable-energy program. About 20 percent of our electricity comes from renewable energy sources. We feel this is consistent with our message, even though we probably underestimated the cost. But whatever the cost, it is not something we would change. And we’re recycling our cooking oil. We work with the Doe Fund [which employs the disenfranchised]. They pick up the oil at no cost to us and turn it into biodiesel fuel. We’re also moving to install hand dryers in the bathroom, having seen the amount of waste involved with paper hand towels. We were investigating putting solar panels on the roof, but the roof is not big enough.
How has being eco-friendly affected your bottom line?
I can only tell you about the costs; I can’t really speculate about the marketing impact it may or may not have had. I’m not sure we’ll ever fully appreciate it. We’re investing in a period where we hope to be a leader in the field and the market is moving to where we’re going. Consumers are making choices now that obviously are based on bigger purchases, like cars, but that will trickle down into everyday purchases. Hopefully we’ll benefit from that.