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Las Vegas’ Create mixes gourmet with green.
Photo: Veronica Henry (all)
Five years ago, an idea began brewing in longtime restaurateur Lance Graulich’s mind. After two decades of work with the likes of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Fatburger, and Wingstop, he decided it was time to venture out on his own. “There’s nothing like controlling your own destiny,” Graulich says.
His restaurant, Create, fits into a dining category he calls “fast casual.” It’s somewhere between fast food and more expensive casual-dining restaurants. Create specializes in gourmet hamburgers—made with the freshest ingredients and a laundry list of toppings and sauces—and custards in a variety of flavors. A look around the industry confirmed what he already thought—few businesses operated in this space, and those that did were pricey.
But Graulich (below) didn’t stop at family-friendly, affordable food in a welcoming environment. His persistent thoughts of community and social responsibility pushed him to make Create eco-friendly. He ignored initial concerns about cost and delved into years of painstaking research. In fact, when he started, things looked bleak. “Most of the products we needed just didn’t exist,” he says. But over time, after seemingly endless Google searches, Graulich hit pay dirt.
First, he found cups made of corn online and coincidentally, his distributor, US Foods, was already considering the product. He became US Foods’ first customer for the 100-percent compostable cups. Next, he found disposable silverware and straws, also made of corn. Graulich had combed through many articles that named the restaurant industry as one of the country’s biggest environmental offenders. About 60 percent of the waste is cardboard. He would need to find cardboard and paper suitable for recycling. This selection process proved daunting as many paper products contain chemicals, such as chlorine bleach, which render them unrecyclable.
As a result of Graulich’s efforts, Create is a zero-waste facility, recycling all cardboard, paper, and plastic. Nothing ends up in a landfill. The effect has been above-average to-go and packaging costs, but Graulich hopes that in the long run, as more people patronize the restaurant, increased sales will close that gap. To further reduce Create’s carbon footprint and energy usage, the restaurant employs a low-energy, low-temperature dishwasher.
Soon, the menu at Create will see the addition of chicken and a high-quality hot dog. Graulich plans to expand to 18 stores in Las Vegas, Utah, California, and Arizona in the next five years, “I want to create an experience for customers that they can’t get anywhere else,” he says.
According to the Small Business Survival Index 2008, “The U.S. economy is in a serious downturn, and the outlook for a robust recovery seems remote. That means state and local policymakers face some very difficult decisions.”
In light of the annual report’s bleak forecast, Nevada ranks as the second-friendliest entrepreneurial state compared to the other 49 and the District of Columbia. South Dakota finished first in the study, which rates states based on 34 government-imposed or related costs. sbsc.org, 703-242-5840
7260 W. Azure Dr., Ste. 140, Las Vegas