INTERVIEW: A Discussion with Paul Neuman of Neuman's Catering Regarding Sustainable Catering
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Great Places & Neuman's Catering hosted an event at Avenue in the Meatpacking District last week. For Event Planners interested in learning bit more about trends and initiatives in the catering business, here is a discussion I had previously with Mr. Neuman regarding green events.

Meet Paul Neuman founder of Neuman's Catering and Vice President of Programs and Education at ISES.  Paul is a leader in his industry being one of the first caterers to officially go green.  We discussed with Mr. Neuman the transition process and the potential benefits of becoming an environmentally conscious caterer.

►Given how time consuming it is running a catering business, what inspired you to take Neuman’s Catering "green"?

Paul: Our primary motivation for going green is a sense of social responsibility. We feel a need to be accountable to our role as a corporate community member. We also wanted to stay on the cutting edge of what our clients are seeking. Over the years our clientele has become more environmentally aware.

►What is Green Restaurant certification?

Paul: Green Restaurant Certification is established by the non-profit Green Restaurant Association (GRA), which has been around for over 20 years. The GRA scores food operators and restaurants on a point system. They measure everything from where you buy your food and paper goods to how you manage your water and electrical supply.

►Does being a caterer and not a restaurant impact the Green Restaurant Certification score?

Paul: Yes. To the best of our knowledge, Neuman’s is the first caterer to receive a Green Certification from the GRA, which complicated the scoring process. As a caterer some of the changes we made had no impact on our score. For example, our switch to reusable china plates for family meal got us no points towards our Green Certification since most restaurants already use their own dishes for this function.

►Obviously having a greener approach is beneficial from an ethical perspective... are there any financial benefits?

Paul: We have gotten some new clients who were attracted by our environmental sensitivity. But you have to watch your margins and be conscious of the impact of some of the changes. Going green is great, but you must keep an eye on your bottom line and not lose track of the costs. Many things you do to reduce your consumption of electricity and water are positive but you have to be aware that the changes have an upfront cost. For example, re-lamping your lighting saves money in the long run but is more costly in the short term.

►What other green recommendations did you implement and what was the financial impact?

Paul: One change we implemented were flow restrictors on our faucets, which saves water and money. We also installed high-efficiency ovens and now purchase biodiesel for some of our vehicles to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. Other switches such as transitioning to recycled copy paper were slightly more expensive but worth it. Your sole motivation in the process cannot be to save money with every change.

►I know you're very involved with ISES, do you promote any green initiatives at ISES NY?

Paul: As Vice President of Programs and Education at ISES I am looking to put together a sustainability program next year to educate our members about what it means to provide event services in the most environmentally sensitive way.

►What would you say to a caterer hesitant about going "green"?

Paul: I would say that they are living in the past. Today as a business owner you have to be oriented to the future. This is not about ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, it’s all about the environmental legacy we pass on to our children and grandchildren so they have a planet that is livable.

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