Burgerville USA on Monday reopened two of its restaurants, one in Vancouver Plaza and one in the St. Johns neighborhood in Portland, for drive-thru service during an ongoing supply chain shortage.
All Burgervilles are still closed for dine-in. The two reopenings are largely due to an increase in applicants.
To staff the reopened restaurants, the Vancouver-based company aspires to hire about 60 employees, all with benefits, between the two locations by the end of the year, said Hillary Barbour, spokesperson for Burgerville. So far, the Vancouver Plaza location at 8321 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive has hired 18 employees; the St. Johns location has hired 22.
Barbour anticipates the restaurants will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., though she recommends that customers check restaurant hours beforehand.
Depending on Burgerville’s ability to hire enough staff, it is hoping to reopen the remaining three closed restaurants by the end of the year. One of those locations is in Vancouver Heights, while the other two are in Oregon.
Late in the summer, Burgerville had to close five of its locations in Oregon and Washington. Two of them were in Vancouver.
Before the company’s leadership made the decision to close the restaurants, it faced numerous supply chain issues that affected packaging to products. Because of its hyper-local model, the company was able to resolve many of its local-product issues, but it still had problems getting products that weren’t local, like chicken.
One of Burgerville’s main distributors ran into trouble when it suffered from a COVID-19 outbreak, a shortage of delivery drivers and a labor shortage. The fast-food company couldn’t get the regular product deliveries that it was accustomed to getting.
To combat the shortages, Barbour said, Burgerville staff undertook a process of consolidating and moving products to different locations. Still, the process was unsustainable, and so five locations were temporarily closed. The employees who worked in the closed restaurants were offered jobs at nearby locations.
Dining rooms closed
Burgerville closed its dining rooms in March 2020 and has managed to operate all its restaurants using a drive-thru and order-ahead model. The newly reopened locations will operate under the same model.
Barbour expects dining rooms to reopen when hiring becomes more stable and the restaurants have more robust crews. Despite the staffing issues, Barbour said, its dining rooms remained closed in great part because of the uncertainty of the pandemic.
The dining room closures “have been more for the health and safety of employees,” she said.
Even though the company has closed its dining rooms, it hasn’t seen a huge loss in business. Much of the company’s business was done through the drive-thru windows even before the pandemic began.
“That volume is growing like crazy,” said Barbour.
Since the pandemic, Burgerville has put more energy into its mobile app and has trained employees to operate drive-thru systems more efficiently.
Barbour said the company is working to remove barriers and accelerate the hiring process, as well as using more online resources to attract workers.
Burgerville in mid-November reached a tentative first contract with a labor union that represents employees at five of its Oregon locations. Barbour said the company is still awaiting the union’s ratification of the contract.