Restaurants are doing just about anything right now to stick to their sustainability guns, whether through green seminars or touting their eco-friendly practices.

But one Plano, Texas, restaurant is going the extra mile, so to speak, to keep the sustainability wheels rolling.

Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar, which opened in late 2010, has become the first restaurant in the Lone Star state to bring electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to its customers.

“These commercial charging stations reinforce what Whiskey Cake aims to be as a restaurant: forward-thinking, locally sustainable, eco-friendly, and customer-oriented,” says Randy DeWitt, CEO of Front Burner Restaurants, which operates Whiskey Cake.

But the decision to add the charging stations was somewhat personal for DeWitt.

“I bought a Chevy Volt,” he says, “and I wanted a place to charge it up.” The Volt is one of only two electric cars currently available in America (the other is the Nissan LEAF).

However, DeWitt does acknowledge that this move is positive both in terms of sustainability and business.

“I think it sends the right message to our customers,” he says. “As a business owner, if we do things like provide free charging to our customers, maybe it will encourage more people to buy an electric car.”

In a time when consumers are still recovering from the recession and more and more guests are concerned with eco-friendly practices, the EV charging stations may be a smart move for restaurants.

“You can charge up an electric car for a lot less money than it costs to fill it up with gas and drive it,” DeWitt says.

The restaurant features two Blink L2 Pedestal stations, which were supplied and installed by The EV Project, a $230 million U.S. Department of Energy-funded initiative to jumpstart the EV trend in the U.S. Each charger is a “Level 2,” meaning it carries 240 volts.

For the time being, Whiskey Cake plans to offer customers the option to charge their EVs for free. “We’re just going to evaluate it over time,” DeWitt says. “As long as [customers] are coming in to the restaurant and spending money in there while their car’s being charged, we think it’s a good business decision to attract customers that way.”

DeWitt says that if the restaurant was charging for charging, it would be inexpensive to the consumer. “We’re told that if you are hooked to the charger,” he says, “you’re hooked up there for an hour, which is the time it takes for someone to eat or have a snack in our restaurant, and it’s less than $1.”

So how are customers responding?

“Mostly people are amused because there hasn’t been in our market—Dallas—the availability of electric cars yet,” DeWitt says. “You don’t see a lot of them on the street. Mostly people are surprised when they realize you can buy an electric car right now.”

DeWitt says that although it might take some time for customers to use the stations regularly, Front Burner plans to install charging stations at each of the 22 restaurants it operates.

“I know it’s going to catch on.”

By Mary Avant

Industry News, NextGen Casual, Philanthropy