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.
Yeah but what if they started serving poutine?
Lucas – If Burgerville started serving poutine, I’d be a fan for life. That being said, if they were to call it “farm fresh, sustainable, locally-sourced poutine”, I would deride their marketing person as I stuffed my face with the deliciousness.
I don’t know if this is a simple black and white situation. Some of BurgerVille’s marketing is definitely hype, and sometimes their food may be more in fat content etc then McDonald’s, but when you look at their practices as a whole and their choices in the vendors they deal with, it looks a whole lot better than what the Golden Arches is frying up. If you have to go fast food, it is a better choice then the other guys out there.
My biggest “beef” with Burgerville is that all their facilities smell of grease!
Maybe it’s just me, but when I (rarely) walk through the door of a Burgerville, I’m hit with the permeating smell of GREASE. Why?
This never seems to be the case with other fast-food outlets.
Maybe they just have a problem with air circulation…but ALL their restaurants?
___ora et labora___
Couple of really poor arguments in this blog:
1. “it’s still a fast food restaurant you probably drove to in a gasoline fueled car”. Um, most people drive cars to most restaurants. Are you suggesting that we eat all meals at home or that any restaurant claiming it is fresh, local or sustainable be arrived at only by foot, bike, or bus? Better let the patrons of all Portland’s culinary hotspots who claim these things know about that.
2. “A connotation of fresh, local, sustainable, is healthfulness. But hamburgers, fries, sodas, and milkshakes are far from the healthiest food choices you can make.” If your proscuitto wrapped filet mignon in gorgonzola sauce at Higgins came right from your neighbor’s pig and cow, slaughtered that morning, using all, sustainable farming practices (whatever those are) it is still not healthy but it is indeed fresh, darn local, and, presumably sustainable.
My beef (no pun intended) centers more around the inevitable, depressing trend of decreasing quality and increasing prices. Putting on my old guy hat for a moment, I remember when the fish in the fish and chips actually looked like a piece of fish and not a pre-fabricated diamond shaped fish nugget. When the bacon colossal was a substantial burger and not a thin patty on a squished bun resembling a whopper. The old barrel of fries which were not as limp and sad as the fries you get now.
Whether or not you think it’s over-hyped, you can get a burger, fries and a soft drink at Foster Burger for $9.50. A Pepper Bacon Cheeseburger basket at BV is &7.69. Those prices are comparable enough that I shouldn’t get a typical production line mashed-down burger when I unwrap my meal paired off with soggy, already lukewarm at best fries. In my opinion, BV spends more time telling you how lucky you are to be eating Walla Walla onion rings and Tillamook cheddar than they do making sure you can taste the difference.
I’ve had Burgerville only once, I think. It was okay.
A coworker related this story to me. His family ordered their food, some chicken strips, some fish strips, some burgers, etc. When the food came, they couldn’t tell the difference between the fish and the chicken. It’s all fried and it looks the same. Maybe this was before they switched to the fish-triangles. But then they tasted the presumed fish and chicken, and they STILL couldn’t tell which was which. Wow.
Whatever. It’s fast food. You get what you pay for. You don’t go there expecting to get a dynamite meal (full meal, drink included) for 8 bucks. You do pay a little more at Burgerville than you do at McDonalds or Burger King. But anyone who thinks the quality of food at MD’s or BK is as good as at Bville is off their rocker.
I am with the Burgerville communications team, and we want to let you know that we have read and appreciate all of your honest feedback. You have raised a lot of issues, and we look forward to an in-person meeting with Dave to discuss his thoughts.
But they have sweet potato fries!
Kip K says
Dave is making friends everywhere in the land of burgers!! I’ve never had an issue with Burgerville except for the occassional missing piece of a drive thru order, and find their food tasty. If I do go fast food, I’m happy to choose them over the other more commercial chains. Plus, the fact they are willing to talk about the issues brought up just shows how much they get it.
My greatest disappointments with Burgerville are:
1. The sweet potato fries are WAY too thin. They are all crust, tasting mostly of salt, oil, and carmelized sugar. The sweet potato fries lack sweet potato taste! (And if Burgerville ever serves real, thicker-cut sweet potato fries, thick kosher salt & banana ketchup would be great — that’s what the place that preceded ‘Jams’ on Hawthorne used to serve w/ their sweet potato fries.)
2. Most importantly, the food just isn’t that good overall. The comment by the self-described “old guy” explains a lot — Burgerville gained it’s reputation for exceptional fast food many years ago, when it actually was serving exceptional fast food. But right now, the only thing that’s exceptional is the lettuce on the burgers (the lettuce is not shredded & it’s not soggy).
I for one support your efforts and will be more than happy to buy more of your food.
Please send your thanks in the way of two cheeseburgers, a side of spread, a regular fry and a fresh blackberry milkshake to the address provided.
XXXXXX SW XXXX
PS. Dave Knows NOT the quality of your yummy products.
You wanna see a joint that has the fast food model pared down to a smoothly greased machine… check out one of the 2 nearby ‘Five Guys’ I don’t suppose these folks are too much in the way of sustainable or local, their potatoes are all specially trucked in from their suppliers around Idaho. The beef is good stuff but who knows where its coming from. But they hit all the highmarks for fresh, you watch the team in front of you slam together your burger with the sound of peanut oil sizzling. This is the real deal for fast food, I mean you can even get sauteed mushrooms and the overhead music is always something rocking.
their restaurant may smell differently as they are proud to fry in canola oil trying to help the customers health wise.
I’m with D5ve on the increasing prices and decreasing quality. We used to eat there all the time and some of the employees knew us and would stop by and chat. They gave a 10% discount for certain employees with badges. It sort of took the sting off the higher prices. We wanted to feel like we were supporting the local ecomony, but even with the discount the prices were rising and quality didn’t match. We could get better food elsewhere, even cheaper and without needing a badge. We stopped going to BV. We drive past it all the time and hadn’t eaten there in over a year. So last week we decided to drop in for lunch. Very disappointed to see even higher prices, none of the employees we recognized, and realized the food paled in comarison to other places. Guess we’ll keep driving by.
I type in sustainability Portland restaurant’s and I find a website called realfoodportland. who states that BV is sustainable. Disappointing and NOT TRUE! Too bad you cant comment there or I would have!
BV beef is finished off with GMO CORN and SOY. Demand 100% grass fed beef!
The Planet, animals and YOU deserve it!!
Patrick Conry says
I went to West Lynn Location and the meat was cool not just cooked. The shakes were running and bad. This is always the case. I tried to give them a chance but I done. $13.50 what a rig off. Never again will I go there. The five guys has hot food good fries and wonderful shakes. Spend your money there you will not be disappointed.