After its success with the experimental counter-less Burgerville at PDX Airport, the restaurant chain is taking its innovations in customer service and amenities to other locations across the region.
From the Hydroflask stainless steel container that keeps milkshakes cold for up to 8 hours to a system where employees approach customers to take their orders via handheld tablets, the company’s innovative, customer-centric approach is spreading.
“What we’ve learned at PDX we’re carrying forward to our newest couple of restaurants this year,” said Beth Brewer, Burgerville’s chief of learning and innovation.
The PDX Burgerville opened in May 2014 and was intended to be a prototype for the Vancouver-based chain. A year later, the restaurant at Concourse D, beyond the security gates, is about two weeks into taking mobile orders from cellphone users. It has plans to implement food deliveries within the airport.
And Burgerville restaurants across the region have adopted some of the innovations from PDX, Brewer said. For example, some restaurants now offer the Hydroflask, which sells for $25 with drink included, after customers driving long distances requested a way to keep their milkshakes cold, Brewer said. So if someone is driving from Albany, Ore., to California, for example, they can sip their frosty treat all the way, she added.
The chain, with 40 existing restaurants, is getting ready to open the new Greenway Town Center Burgerville in Tigard, Ore., in late January. The menu at the new location, the first to be branded as a BV Signature restaurant, will be similar to the PDX menu — a slimmed-down version that just includes the Burgerville classics. It will also adopt the counter-less service model.
Employees at the PDX Burgerville go through specialized training, including improvisation sessions and airport-specific security training. It appears to have paid off: Burgerville employees have won outstanding customer service awards from the Port of Portland’s PDXpectations program for four consecutive quarters.
Strong customer service was essential from the start, Brewer said, since removing the order counter is initially awkward for customers. “It can be a little confusing at first to see how to engage the service,” she said.
The new mobile ordering option is designed to help speed up the process as well. Travelers or airport employees who have limited time can order via their cellphones and have their food ready when they land or in time for their lunch break, she said. In certain situations, employees will even deliver to a person’s gate if they are pressed for time, Brewer said.
Wait times at the PDX location are better than the average at all locations, meaning faster service. Brewer added that the scaled-back menu helps with that. And since the restaurant is in the international terminal, Burgerville also provides an image-heavy menu for easy ordering.
Not every restaurant will adopt all the PDX innovations, as each community is different, Brewer said.
Burgerville is planning to open a Corvallis, Ore., location later this winter. The restaurant is going through an “Idea Lab,” similar to what occurred before opening PDX. Officials are trying to get customer feedback on what is desired there.
“Suggestions and ideas from the community are continuing to come forward, and we are modifying our offerings to meet those requests, so details may change as we near our opening day,” Burgerville spokeswoman Sara Perrin said.
Customers and even airport employees seem to be enjoying the innovations at PDX.
“I’m a TSA employee at PDX and just wanted to give kudos to Burgerville for their consistent top-notch customer service. I come here for lunch often, usually around 8 a.m. My order is sometimes crazy, because I am on a low-carb diet. They are always so accommodating and get the order right every time. They are quick with getting orders in and getting the food out, even when it’s busy. For those of us on 30-minute lunches, this is important,” Justine Clark said in an email to the Port of Portland provided to The Columbian from Burgerville.
Perrin also provided examples of employees going above and beyond, from scouring the airport to find tea for a woman with an upset stomach to returning a lost cellphone and helping another rushed passenger to her gate.