CEO says chain plans more locations, a spicy addition to menu
The future of Burgerville is bright, says the company’s new chief executive, Ed Casey. And it involves the return of fried green beans.
Casey took over as chief executive for the Vancouver-based fast-food chain earlier this year. He’s now been in the role for a little more than six months.
Casey started in the food industry young. He worked for what he calls some really fun restaurants in Hollywood, Calif. The jobs taught him kitchen skills and food creativity. He then went on to work at TGI Fridays. It was one of the prominent food innovators at the time, said Casey.
“I learned a lot about food development,” added Casey, who ended up spending his career in the food and beverage industry, most recently at he and his wife’s catering company Cheryl’s on 12th in Portland.
“I was really actually never going to go back to working in chain restaurants,” said Casey. But Burgerville was different.
“That’s a great family-run company,” he thought. “It’s a local, iconic brand. I love everything they stand for and I’ve always loved the product. That would be really fun.
“So that’s why I’m here.”
It hasn’t been all fun for the industry veteran, however.
“There were a lot of challenges when I came in, because we were coming off the back two years of COVID,” said Casey, mentioning the other associated challenges like having had dining rooms closed for almost two years, a difficult labor market and supply chain shortages.
But the restaurant has focused on staffing: recruiting, training, getting dining rooms open again and working on throughput.
The company’s been “keeping the focus on quality but also getting the food through quicker,” said Casey. This has allowed for growth in revenue and store sales and led to plans for new locations around the metro area.
“It’s all about growth,” Casey said. The last new location added was about six years ago, he added.
“We have a lot of demand just in the metro area for Burgerville,” said Casey. “So we’re looking for spotty locations to fill out the rest of the metro area and then really look into collateral markets that have been wanting Burgerville for a long time.”
The burger chain recently saw five of its locations unionize, but Casey doesn’t think this has changed much about the company.
“At the end of the day, we want what’s best for our employees, and so does the union,” said the executive. “We have to think about: ‘Is it right? Is it fair for the customer? Is it fair to the company? Does it all balance out?
“We want to give the employees everything we can, anyway.”
There are still supply chain challenges that Burgerville is facing, but often related to staffing.
“That’s affecting vendors everywhere,” said Casey. “People we get the product from sometimes just don’t have the staffing to do what they need to do to deliver the product.”
Delivery and distribution companies are having their own challenges, Casey added. He went on to mention, however, that Burgerville has had many of the same local vendors for a long time.
“That’s helped us kind of navigate this and be able to pivot if we run into supply chain issues,” Casey said.
But prices are being affected.
“There’s certainly inflation going on there and challenges to deal with.”
Casey loves Burgerville’s brand equity. He said he received countless calls and texts and emails when he decided to take on the role with the company. Friends would tell him how fabulous it was — and to bring back sweet potato fries.
“The future is very bright,” said Casey, pointing to stores’ compounding growth and the demand for Burgerville that has yet to be met.
Coming up on the menu for Burgerville fans is a new spicy chicken sandwich.
“We’re doing a blend of fresh roasted peppers — serranoes and jalapenos and poblanos for flavor,” said Casey, mentioning it will be served with Portland-made Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce and either fried or grilled chicken.
“It’s going to be a very fun product, because the hot chicken stuff is popular out there,” he said.
The company will also be bringing back its Big Sassy Burger next year and fried green beans this fall.