Burgerville plans to add 1 to 2 restaurants per year

Chain opened its first new restaurant since 2001, in Tigard, Ore.

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Vancouver-based Burgerville plans to open up to two new restaurants per year, its CEO announced Monday as the company opened its new Tigard, Ore., store.

The next restaurant is expected in 2013, although no sites have been announced, said Jeff Harvey, chief executive officer. He said The Holland Inc. — the company which owns Burgerville — won't settle for anything less than the best exposure when it comes to choosing a site.

That's one reason Burgerville liked the new Tigard location fronting the busy Southwest Pacific Highway. It also is one of the reasons the company hasn't found a suitable site in downtown Vancouver to replace the restaurant closed there last year.

Burgerville closed the old-fashioned walk-up hamburger stand in September, nine months after it sold the property on the corner of D Street and Mill Plain Boulevard. Vancouver-based Prestige Development purchased the site for $750,000 to redevelop the block into an apartment complex with ground-floor retail space.

The search for a replacement Burgerville site has turned up nothing so far, Harvey said.

"The difference between the previous Vancouver site and (Tigard) has to do with population, traffic and exposure," he said.

The new Tigard site is Burgerville's first new restaurant since 2001.

Burgerville also considers proximity to the routes that supply its 39 restaurants, known for offering foods supplied by local producers. Harvey said requests from the community also fuel company growth.

"We make sure we don't lose track of the community requests," he said.

Conservative growth

The company isn't planning for rapid physical growth, according to Harvey, who said Burgerville plans to self-finance between one and two new restaurants or remodels per year.

The conservative growth plan stems from hard lessons learned during the nation's most recent recession. Burgerville was poised to expand by eight restaurants in 2008. Then the financial meltdown spurred its lender, G.E. Capital, to withdraw its promise of approximately $10 million, leaving the company in debt for several project commitments.

"It was a very painful experience," Harvey said, explaining that it prompted the company's desire to control its own destiny. "We decided that if we're going to make a commitment, we want to have control over that commitment."

Converting to a franchise model also is out of the question, Harvey said.

"I have yet to see a successful franchise propagate and maintain their core values," he said.

Harvey said Burgerville's "serve with love" mission is tied to its sustainable philosophy. In addition to working with local food suppliers, the company operates programs that do everything from recycling used cooking oil into biodiesel to composting food waste. Burgerville offers a health insurance plan for all employees.

Harvey said Burgerville showed its community commitment to Tigard by offering high school students a yearlong internship program long before the restaurant opened.

"The project we gave them was marketing this restaurant," he said.

Students were assigned to come up with, research and execute a marketing plan for the new Tigard restaurant.

Harvey said Burgerville's newest 2,800-square-foot restaurant includes new design features, such as a digital menu board and a digital community wall where patrons can share their news.

"These are components that will make it feel like part of the community," he said.