The Business Case
If healthy, quick food seems like an oxymoron, you haven’t been to Burgerville, a chain of 40 Pacific Northwest quick-service restaurants. Burgers here are made from pastured vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free beef. The eggs on our breakfast biscuits are from cage-free hens that have never been treated with antibiotics. Salads offer mixed greens topped with smoked salmon and Oregon hazelnuts. Even desserts and sides rely on seasonal, local ingredients – blackberry milkshakes are only available in season, as are the hand-prepared buttermilk-battered onion rings made from Walla Walla sweet onions grown in Washington and Oregon.
Burgerville purchases wind power credits equal to 100 percent of our electricity use, recycles used canola oil into biodiesel, and offers its hourly employees an accessible healthcare. In recent years, we transformed our business plan, focusing on aligning all parts of our company with our values, finding new ways to serve our employees and guests and sharing our story along the way. The results were double-digit same store sales increases in 2006 and 2007. We are clear that conducting business sustainably is good business.
It Takes Community
Burgerville is an active leader in sustaining all we love about the Northwest. We are in dialogue and conversations about renewable energy, composting, recycling, and other initiatives that contribute to thriving communities and changing the way business does business. If you see a place we can make a difference, please let us know.
Central to the heart of the company, Burgerville people are at the center of what allows our company to live its values to their fullest extent. Without strong, vibrant, healthy people, there can be no healthy family or healthy community. At Burgerville, we believe in developing people throughout our organization. Leading and thriving in the midst of change calls for alert, reflective and creative people – people who are flexible in the face of change and who bring their spirit and imagination to bear on the problems and issues at hand. By growing their leadership abilities, employees learn how to powerfully manage change and serve with love no matter the circumstances they encounter. Leadership at this level contributes innovation and creates sustainable impact, which grows our business and serves our community.
Burgerville believes a commitment to each employee’s leadership development allows for an employee to fully contribute their creativity and their passion in their daily work. It is this investment in people development that has allowed the company to innovate in ways that create business value and are good for the community. An excellent example of an employee who made an innovative contribution as a result of Burgerville’s culture and development is Amaranth Wilson. Ms. Wilson was key in the development of the expanded Burgerville recycling and composting pilot program. Wilson worked as an assistant restaurant manager and was empowered to contribute her personal passion and commitment to the environment to develop a pilot program and train others to make the program a success.
From the beginning, it has been Burgerville’s intention to demonstrate the regional value of sustainable business practices so that other local partners, colleagues, peers, employees and guests could see the return in making a similar commitment. Wind technology has come a long way since the early 1970s, and Burgerville has been at the forefront of adopting this in each of their restaurants and corporate headquarters. Burgerville’s executive leadership team personally enrolled in a renewable energy program with their local utility provider and later had a company meeting during which representatives from three different utility companies further educated the management team and encouraged implementation within their restaurant teams, families and friends.
Burgerville purchases 100 percent renewable wind power credits equal to the total electricity use in 40 Burgerville locations and its corporate headquarters.
Burgerville purchases its renewable “clean” wind power from large-scale wind farms located throughout the region, and the company only purchases wind power from energy providers that are environmentally sensitive to their locales. The slow-motion, large windmills create a significant amount of energy while also being animal friendly. Many businesses and individuals throughout the community have joined Burgerville in its pledge to alternative sustainable practices by adopting wind power. Wind power represents the opportunity to help preserve natural resources and sustain clean rivers, vital forests, abundant wildlife and clean air, all in the interest of healthy, thriving communities.
Converting Used Cooking Oil to Biodiesel
At Burgerville, we recycle used cooking oil from our 40 restaurants into biodiesel fuel, a cleaner burning blend of diesel fuel.
In 2007, we delivered 53,000 gallons of cooking oil to refineries for recycling. The oil was converted locally into approximately 39,750 gallons of biodiesel for use by diesel-powered commercial trucks and cars.
Affordable Employee Health Care Initiative
In a time when most companies were cutting back on healthcare for employees, Burgerville took a bold step in the other direction. In January 2006, the company introduced new healthcare packages for hourly employees and their families that decreased the employees’ premium costs. These packages are unique in that Burgerville contributes more than 90 percent of the cost of both its hourly employees’ and their dependents’ healthcare plan, following through on its commitment to ensure that the company’s employees are healthy and well.
We offer an affordable healthcare package (full medical, dental, vision, and life) for hourly employees as well as our salaried employees. After six months of employment, hourly employees who work an average of 25 hours per week are eligible to enroll in the plan, starting as low as $30 per month for individual coverage . “We are not aware of another restaurant company doing this,” stated Jack Graves, chief cultural officer for Burgerville. In fact, according to PayScale, Inc., a leading provider of online compensation information with access to accurate data for both employees and employers, 60 percent of those working in the quick service restaurant (QSR) field do not have any form of medical insurance.
Recycling & Composting Program
Composting and recycling waste is good business and good for our community. We compost food waste in the kitchens of our restaurants that have access to compost hauling. Our food waste compost is turned into nutrient-rich compost sold at local retailers for home and business gardens. In addition, DeSantis Landscapes, collects leaves and debris from our restaurants and home office and creates compost that is used back on our properties to nourish the soil and feed our plants and trees.
Restaurants recycle everything from paper to plastic to glass to tin. Even our menu boards are printed on recyclable paper or plastic materials. We’ve found materials accepted for recycling differs by municipality. Over 75% of our packaging is taken out of our restaurants. If you take our milkshake and smoothie cups or salad containers to go, please check with your local municipality about the availability of recycling these materials.
We continue to work with local municipalities, our packaging providers, and waste haulers to find the best solutions for diverting waste from landfills.
The Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development has found that 75% of waste generation comes from the business sector. It’s easy to see that businesses can make a big impact in reducing waste. For more information on improving your workplace recycling and composting program, visit http://www.recycleatwork.com or call Metro Recycling Information Center at (503) 234-3000.
Commercial Composting Pilot Program
In 2007 Burgerville piloted an employee-led Recycling and Composting program across our entire chain. Our goal was that all 40 restaurants be fully recycling and composting in 2008, diverting 85% of all our waste from the landfill. By leading as an early adopter of commercial composting, we learned many things in this pilot program. Five-years later, in summer 2012, we adapted our composting pilot program to best serve our restaurants, our company, our communities, and our guests.
Here are few of the things we learned:
• The packaging industry has been ahead of the infrastructure to support their innovations
• The infrastructure to accept compostable packaging varies from municipality to municipality
• The variety of material used in packaging, and the variations that exist (each needing a different solution for disposal), prevent an effective sorting system
• Cross-contamination of PLA corn-based plastics in the non-PLA plastics recycling stream is causing issues
• Over 75% of our packaging leaves our restaurants, and even with the expansion of residential composting in 2011, Guests do not have a solution for composting packaging materials from home
• The transition to home composting of food waste in the Portland metro area has brought new complexities to our area composting facilities
We will continue to pilot innovations, and to work in partnership with cities, municipalities and packaging companies to create sustainable solutions for diverting waste from landfills.