Fabian Rodriguez is the owner of BellaPasta, a real estate agent, and an energy hero living in Fresno, California. He has a passion for cooking and for saving energy, as head chef and in charge of making his 17-year-old restaurant the most energy efficient it can be.
What are some of the ways you save energy day-to-day at BellaPasta?
We’re closed between two and five, so everything’s turned off. All the lights are off. Every day this saves me money. It keeps money in my pocket, for my kid’s future. It also keeps my wife happy when she pays the bills and sees that it’s not higher than normal. That’s how some of the accountability comes into play, because you’re always worried about saving money day to day.
That’s one of the few things that you can control in this business. You can’t control people walking in, wanting good food. You’re always going to try to produce the best you can. And there are only a few things you can control. Saving energy is one of them.
Replacing older equipment. It’s more efficient in the long run. Imagine a refrigerator that is 30 years old versus a brand new one, the modern technology has better fans, faster cooling.
Can you share some of the other things you do in the restaurant to be more energy efficient?
It was as simple as changing all the lights from spotlights to LED. On our front door we changed the gaskets. If you stand next to a door that isn’t taken care of, you can feel the hot and cold air going back and forth.
You’re either losing energy or you’re gaining. You’re trying to control the environment inside. One thing that has a huge impact is keeping the restaurant clean. At least twice a year I go through all my machinery, all my condensers, refrigeration. It’s just like a car and its radiator. And light bulbs so they don’t burn as hot. They’ll have an even longer life. Look up at the blades on your fans. My blades are clean. When they’re not, they’re not running efficiently and it’s going to cost more.
We changed our light switches to all timers, so that when someone goes into the bathroom, it automatically turns on. It’s on for about five to seven minutes, you hope that’s enough time. These little things seem insignificant but they’re not; they add up.
As a small business owner and Energy Hero, what are some of the other challenges you face?
As a small business owner I’m constantly adjusting, looking at, planning, thinking ahead. My refrigerator, I had to call the repair guy twice. And I’m like, Okay, forget it. It broke down again. Let’s get a new one ordered, because while it’s $75 [a fix] versus $5,000 to buy a new piece of machinery, I know that the new one is going to last 15, 20 years.
Replacing older equipment is more efficient in the long run. Imagine a refrigerator that is 30 years old versus a brand-new one. The modern technology has better fans, faster cooling. If we see an increase in our bill maybe a piece of equipment is to blame.
Do you share your energy saving methods with other local, small business owners?
Yes, constantly. You’re grabbing cards from people and sharing information. Restaurants are small communities. We all rely on each other. It’s just like having a beer and talking to somebody about theater or food or recipes. That’s the funny thing; you would think all these ideas would be my secrets. But the reality is no, we all want each other to survive because we can help each other save energy.
Stay vigilant. Talk, ask questions, use your knowledge and experience. We’re a little egomaniacal because we have a passion for what we do and want to see it thrive even more. But most people in this business, if you ask those questions, will help you. I know I will.