For my latest chat over chips and salsa, I was fortunate enough to have Walt Taylor in my rollerdex. He is the Director of Energy & Building Materials at the SSG Co-op, which serves Wendy’s and Arby’s. A part of life’s rich tapestry, I figured Walt would have some interesting perspectives on some tough and trivial questions. And of course, he did:
1) What is your background and what is your current role with WendysArbys?
In high school and college, I worked for Chick-fil-A. After graduating from Auburn University, I went to work for Waffle House in procurement (food and equipment) and supply chain. After 12 years with Waffle House, I came to Arby’s which eventually became Wendy’s/Arby’s Group. Then in April 2010, the SSG Co-op was formed as an independent purchasing cooperative serving Wendy’s and Arby’s.
2) What is the biggest issue facing you / the franchisees – from an energy perspective / otherwise?
From an energy perspective, I would say that it is how do we/they control energy costs. Generally, this is done through conservation and better procurement methods in de-regulated markets. Quick service restaurants are one of the (if not the) largest energy users per square foot. As an industry, QSRs are usually looking to build the smallest building possible and get the most production possible out of that building (i.e. cooking, lighting, etc.).
3) If you could be one of the characters from the A-team, which one would you be?
Funny you should ask that…I actually call my team the “A-team” and so I would be Hannibal. Something you should know about us: Ten years ago, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men (and women) promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Atlanta underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.
4) I get the impression you are big into books; what is your favorite energy-related read and why?
I would suggest two. First, I would recommend “From Edison to Enron” by Richard Muson. Muson does a good job of giving the reader a history lesson on the electricity industry. I think I would have added Tesla’s name in the title somewhere…just to be fair. The other one is “Lights Out” by Jason Makansi. He details where the electric utility industry is now and what potential pitfalls (mainly infrastructure) may be eminent.
5) Given the choice, which do you prefer; Wendys or Arbys?
6) I used to be skeptic of Twitter, but I have made some great contacts through it (in fact, I first connected with you through it). If Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook had a fight; which social network should win from your perspective?
For me, LinkedIn. It isn’t too personal. I really don’t need to know that a friend of a friend just got a coffee.
7) If you could change one thing about the energy industry, what would it be?
My utility friends know the answer to this. In regulated areas, the commercial customer is unfairly treated because the utility commissions are voted in by, and therefore will protect, the residential customer to get votes. Also, the industrial customers have big money for lobbyists and use those lobbyists to get the least cost electricity. With these two forces, and the fact that regulated utilities are “guaranteed” an ROE, the commercial customers are unfairly treated because they neither vote nor have the money to lobby.
8) Ok, Hannibal; if I gave you six planks of wood, a lawn mower, four blankets, three wheels, and a nailgun, what could you build?
Tent, hammock & use the lawn mower as a fan.
9) What is your favorite aspect of your job?
All of it, really…energy touches so many different areas and allows you to work with a wide variety of people from restaurant operations to the CFO.
Ahh, yeah…who doesn’t know that? But the people that know me well know that I would never joke about pirates, especially in this era of political correctness.
11) Do you have a motto that resonates with you?
Direction, not intention, determines your destination.
Big thanks go out to Walt for his candor and humor, in equal measure (I love it when a plan comes together).