Vancouver-based fast-food chain Burgerville announced Monday that it will partially or fully furlough more than 1,000 workers, or approximately 68 percent of its total workforce, in response to the changing operating conditions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The company has temporarily closed three of its 41 locations, but plans to continue operating the remaining 38.
Burgerville described the furloughs as companywide in a press release on its website, affecting workers at every restaurant as well as the company’s corporate headquarters in Vancouver — the largest-scale cutback the company has ever instituted.
“We know this won’t be forever. We’re looking forward to the day when we can bring everyone back together,” Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said in a statement. “Meanwhile, we’re grateful to all of our neighbors who continue to support us, and all the local restaurants, doing their best to keep the lights on.”
The burger chain switched all of its operations to drive-thru and delivery-only on March 13, two days before Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order compelling all bars and restaurants to close their dining rooms.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a similar order on March 16. All of Burgerville’s restaurants are in Washington or Oregon, and most are in the Portland metro area.
The company employs 1,482 workers in total, according to the press release, 1,020 of whom will be partially or fully furloughed. Furloughed employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits, the company said, and employees who were already receiving Burgerville benefits will continue to do so.
The cutbacks are all furloughs rather than layoffs, according to Burgerville director of strategic initiatives Hillary Barbour, which will allow the company to quickly bring people back to work when it’s safe to do so — although there’s currently no timeline for when that might happen.
The three shuttered restaurants are the Tigard Signature, the B-Side food cart and the PDX Airport location. Barbour said the Signature location had to close on March 13 because it has no drive-thru, and B-Side closed at some point last week. The airport location closed during the past weekend.
“That just made sense — there’s a lot of declining traffic and travel, obviously, and we wanted to keep our employees as safe as possible,” Barbour said.
The remaining 38 Burgerville locations will remain open for drive-thru, delivery and mobile pickup orders.
The Burgerville Workers Union, which represents staff at five Burgerville locations (all in Oregon) had not publicly responded to the furlough news as of Tuesday morning.
However, the union previously announced that it would seek hazard pay for workers in the form of a $2-an-hour pay increase, as well as two weeks of severance pay in the event of layoffs and two weeks of paid sick time for workers who fall ill.
Workers at one of the unionized Portland-area locations staged a one-day strike on Sunday to protest a reduction in staffing at the restaurant.