Wholly owned and operated by First Nations people, the Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre has been welcoming visitors to Little Current, Ontario — located on the northeast side of Manitoulin Island — since 2013. As the only provider of premium accommodations on the island, the 58-room facility enjoys an occupancy rate of 95 per cent during the summer months and year-round rate of 55 per cent. During the peak season, the hotel employs 55 full and part-time employees.
But the winter months? “Those are slow and challenging,” admits Corey Stacinski, the general manager at Manitoulin. A career hotelier who transitioned from the food and beverage side of the equation into management, Stacinski points to the short window Manitoulin has to make revenue: just May to October.
With roughly five months to earn the majority of their annual earnings, Stacinski says any break Manitoulin can get on expensive utilities is always welcome. He estimates that the hotel’s hydro bill alone was over $130,000 in 2018.
Manitoulin’s on-site restaurant, North46, has been acknowledged as a significant contributor to utility charges. A full service eatery showcasing Aboriginal-themed dining and picturesque views of Lake Huron’s North Channel, Stacinski reveals the space is very tempermental during the summer. “It gets very hot in there and hard to cool. It’s basically a glassed in fishbowl. This has probably been one of our biggest guest satisfaction issues in the restaurant.”
Suffice it to say, he became curious about where Manitoulin could invest to improve matters, as well as how to become more efficient and profitable.
Taking the lead on sustainability to help the foodservice industry save energy and money, Restaurants Canada recently partnered with Save on Energy, ENERGY STAR, Enbridge, LEAF, Russell Hendrix, Silver Chef and NewSpring Energy to throw down the gauntlet with the Foodservice Energy Challenge. Foodservice operators were invited to sign up and take advantage of money-saving energy tips, incentives and rebates, while upgrading to new, modern, high-efficiency equipment that can reap significant performance and energy benefits.
Participants would further learn about how small and big changes can have a positive impact on their business. They’d even get a free audit to determine energy saving opportunities within their business, on top of support from their local electric and gas utility companies to assist with eligible savings programs.
With the support of kitchen staff, food and beverage staff, maintenance staff and Manitoulin brass, Stacinski signed up.
In the aftermath of their assessment, Stacinski claims Manitoulin has been primarily looking at things they can do that they already have access to, only weren’t previously using to their full potential. For one, they’re going to apply nanocoating to the restaurant’s windows. Thermochromic nanocoatings employed appropriately can help reduce energy usage and generate savings. The coatings either absorb heat or permit its reflection, depending on their temperature.
Another big piece of the puzzle? LED technology. Besides producing light approximately 90 per cent more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs, LED products use a variety of unique heat sink designs and configurations to manage heat. And regardless of the heat sink design, all LED products that have earned the ENERGY STAR have been tested to ensure that they properly manage the heat so that the light output is properly maintained through the end of its rated life.
The next three years will be spent upgrading all of Manitoulin’s lighting to LED, which Stacinski believes will experience a relatively short payback. “I was expecting some of the turnaround on some of these initiatives to be a little bit longer, but when we really see pen on paper on this, some, if not all, are going to see returns in as little as 36 months. And others even less than that.”
At the end of the day, having an independent set of eyes and energy audit experts come in has really opened him to some things the business were doing right, some things they were doing wrong and some things that — with minimal investment — are really going to turn around and create efficiencies on their bottom line.
The Foodservice Energy Challenge has also allowed Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre to better position people and the planet alongside profit. According to Stacinski:
“Obviously, anything we can do to be more sustainable, more green and more environmentally friendly from a front end is greatly appreciated. Our First Nations ownership and our general population have a great commitment to protecting Mother Earth. So, the changes have been very well received; well received by our kitchen staff, our food and beverage staff and our maintenance staff, to boot.”