March 20, 2009
A small but growing number of restaurants and bars are benefiting from a growing thirst for green drinks and green talk, according to proponents of the green-drink movement.
"People feel good about being in a facility that has green options -- including green drinks," says Laura Wood Habr, whose Croc's 19th Street Bistro in Virginia Beach, Va., has been involved with a local green-drinks group since November 2007.
The green-drinks phenomenon started in London in 1989 and has since spread around the world, with 420 chapters in cities and towns as far afield as Beijing, according to Green Drinks International. The U.S. branch of Green Drinks lists local affiliates from Long Island to Seattle, and from Idaho to Texas. California alone has 26 chapters. Montana has six.
Margaret Lydecker, a co-founder of Green Drinks NYC, says her affiliate is probably among the nation's largest with more than 10,500 members -- and most decidedly growing. "We had more than a thousand people at our holiday event," she says.
These green-drink groups say their primary aim is to provide networking events for green-minded locals of all sorts. "They come from all over, from finance, from the media, from the arts, from graphic design -- the whole range," says Lydecker, whose professional responsibilities include consulting to VH-1.
Attendees of the Web-promoted events come to socialize and share insights on pursuing a greener lifestyle. The share tips on where to find eco-friendly products or service providers, including watering holes with a sustainable bent to their operations.
Organizers often teach the host site how to add itself to that "A" list for the green set. The operation may be provided with leads on locally produced wines, or suggestions on cocktails that can be mixed with organic spirits and sustainable fresh ingredients from nearby sources.
Before Croc's hosted its first green drinks event, Habr recounts, a typical concession to environmental concerns was recycling empty Budweiser bottles. When the local Green Drinks chapter was invited in, the staff put together a short list of appropriate cocktails and ordered some organic wine, mindful of whom they'd be hosting.
"Then someone started saying, "Well, what about these local beers? Or this Virginia wine? And how about this drink?" she says. "Now we have a whole green-drinks menu. The entire staff got involved. It was really, really fun."
Now Croc's hosts a green-drinks event every fourth Thursday, right through the winter. And the word is spreading. "We usually get a few dozen [customers], depending on the topic we're discussing," says Habr. "For our last meeting, we got close to 10 -- on a Thursday night. And we're a beach town, and this was January."
The restaurant also has garnered green ideas from local participants and the leaders of other chapters, says Habr. "It's kind of propelled the whole restaurant to be green." She recently attended a meeting with like-minded Virginia groups to discuss ways of helping the state present an eco-friendlier face to travelers.
Lydecker says her group has grown so large that few restaurants in the city can now host one of its monthly gatherings. The organization is currently putting together a pamphlet to help potential venues take steps to become more environmentally friendly.
Attendees typically pay a cover charge of $15 or $20 in advance, with walk-ups often paying about $5 more at the door. The cover charges are kept by the Green Drinks group. The bar, usually, is pay-as-you-go -- and typically, the host establishment will provide a certain percentage of bar revenues to the booking group.
The money you save on operating costs (through energy efficiency) adds to what you get to keep, so saving 20% on energy operating costs can increase your profit as much as 33%.
Find out green trends and more in the 2011 Restaurant Industry Forecast. Learn more