Burgerville opens at PDX

After soft launch at airport, Vancouver-based chain opens to a larger world, complete with to-go shakes

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter



If you go

What: Burgerville PDX ribbon-cutting.

Who: he airport community and travelers are invited to attend ceremonies celebrating the opening of the Vancouver-based company’s latest venue, which offers its signature burgers, fries, milkshakes, seasonal fresh items and plans to add local wine and beer.

When: 11 a.m. today.

Where: Concourse D, Portland International Airport, 7000 N.E. Airport Way, Portland.

Vancouver-based Burgerville opens its newest restaurant today at the Portland International Airport, providing a chance for the homegrown food vendor to transport a good impression of the Pacific Northwest to the world that’s just a flight away.

That mission starts with a menu of local favorites, such as the Tillamook Cheeseburger, seasonal fresh strawberry shakes, grab-and-go fresh foods — and a future that will include local beers and wines — served in a 1,000-square-foot space just beyond airport security on Concourse D. Burgerville said it plans to accentuate its menu with world-class service.

“We wanted folks with a real commitment to service,” said Beth Brewer, chief of transformational learning and development, who was responsible for hiring and training 33 employees for the restaurant, the chain’s 40th venue.

The company held a hiring event in January and has trained the crew ever since, Brewer said.

Employees also will have to adjust to a vastly different workplace from the rest of the Burgerville chain, Brewer said. For one thing, the PDX venue does not have a counter separating the staff from the public.

Instead, workers, called “Burgerville Ambassadors,” will carry hand-held e-tablets to take and submit the customer’s order.

“There’s really no barrier between the employee and the guest. They’ll stand shoulder to shoulder,” a concept best-suited for extroverts, Brewer said.

Although small, the PDX venue itself reflects a rugged Pacific Northwest theme of timber and corrugated metal. The decor includes art depicting Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood, painted by budding artist Karla S. Chambers, also co-owner of Corvallis, Ore.-based Stahlbush Island Farms.

Stahlbush is one among many local Burgerville suppliers. According to Brewer, the company gets about 85 percent of its foods from within a 400-mile range. And that’s a concept that fits with the focus of the airport’s owner, the Port of Portland, said Steve Johnson, airport spokesman.

“We promote a Northwest flavor complemented by many national brands,” he said.

The airport in late 2013 was named the No. 1 airport overall in a list of America’s Best Airports published by the national magazine Travel & Leisure, which ranked PDX No. 2 for design and for shopping and third for food. The magazine said PDX has an 87.5 percent on-time departure record.

“We’re very excited to see Burgerville open at PDX, and so are our travelers,” Johnson said. “They are designed to be open at the peak times travelers are traveling.”

That means the restaurant’s daily hours of 5 a.m. to midnight will be longer than the hours of operation at a typical Burgerville, Brewer said.

Those hours might actually fluctuate with incoming flights on the concourse, said Sara Perrin, Burgerville spokeswoman.

The new PDX venue is a walk-up Burgerville with a stretch of seating that’s part of the concourse and adjacent areas, Brewer said. The company plans to look into ways to deliver food to customers on the other side of airport security, but Burgerville needed to station itself beyond the security checkpoint to be able to serve its signature milkshakes to go, she said.

“The advantage of being on Concourse D is once you’re post-security, you can take your shake anywhere,” she said.

To illustrate that point, Burgerville will offer an aluminum milkshake to-go cup at the new airport restaurant that retails for $24.95 and allows travelers to maintain the shake’s temperature for up to eight hours. It’s an innovation, among others, that Burgerville dreamed up after holding sessions to listen to ideas brought forth by airport personnel and travelers, Brewer said.

“That way, you can literally bring your Burgerville milkshake to New York,” she said.

Brewer added that the airport restaurant’s employees will need to think ahead to arrive on time for shifts, given that they’ll have to stand in line to go through airport security.

“You can’t just pull into the parking lot, walk in and get going,” Brewer said. Owned by Vancouver-based Burgerville LLC, the company now operates 40 restaurants in Washington and Oregon, along with its mobile restaurant, the Burgerville Nomad. The new Burgerville at PDX is located near Gate 6 next to a Northwest Travel Mart and across from Rogue Ales Public House.

Concourse D is accessible by a hallway connector to the airport’s A, B and C concourse areas, according to Johnson. Concourse D serves several airlines, including Delta, Spirit Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin America.

Editor's note: This story has been modified to reflect a correction. The Burgerville chain is owned by Vancouver-based Burgerville LLC.