I want to make it clear I’m not just being contradictory. In fact, I’m a fan of some aspects of the Burgerville business:
- They’re the first sponsor for my beloved Portland Timbers as they step up to the MLS
- They’ve spearheaded efforts to get recycling and composting into restaurants (baby steps)
- The beef they use is not the worst beef in the world
- You know while you’re eating, rather than later at a doctor’s appointment, how much saturated fat and sodium you’re consuming
- They offer real health insurance to their employees
That being said, I’m not a fan of Burgerville’s food, or their marketing. In much the same way I’m not a fan of McDonalds’ or Burger King’s. But what’s that you say? Burgerville means Fresh, Local, Sustainable?
I think it’s generally a good idea to be wary of marketing. Burgerville’s, in particular seems carefully crafted for local sensibilities, as you would expect – which makes me even more wary.
Fresh, Local, Sustainable is their marketing mantra (but the cynic in me suspects it will change eventually to whatever buzz words become part of the next popular marketing trend). Let’s look at each of these marketing claims:
Fresh: This claim is disingenuous. Some ingredients are frozen (e.g. potatoes), some are fresh (e.g. tomatoes, lettuce), some are more or less processed than others. True of Burgerville, true of McDonalds. If you’re looking for fresh, a fast food restaurant is generally not the best place to go.
Local: Most restaurants, including national chains, obtain a large proportion of their ingredients locally; it’s cheaper! The bigger ones have the clout to contract local processors to produce ingredients to their specifications. I learned this on a tour of a McDonalds restaurant when I was eight, as they showed us the locally baked hamburger buns. This is not a novel concept invented by Burgerville.
Sustainable: Bullshit. Fast food restaurant businesses are not sustainable. Perhaps some of Burgerville’s business practices are baby steps toward sustainability, they have compost bins in the stores for example, but a spade is spade. You can put all the sustainable lipstick in the world on Burgerville and it’s still a fast food restaurant you probably drove to in a gasoline fueled car where virtually every piece of food, drink, or condiment is wrapped in paper or plastic.
But perhaps my biggest beef with Burgerville is with the food. A connotation of fresh, local, sustainable, is healthfulness. But hamburgers, fries, sodas, and milkshakes (fresh, local, sustainable or not) are far from the healthiest food choices you can make; Burgerville’s Tillamook Cheeseburger has 130 more calories and 13 more grams of fat than McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese for crying out loud.
Local, Fresh, Sustainable doesn’t make it better for you; fast food is fast food.