Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

On Today’s Menu: Sustainability

As a reluctant consumer of the typical fast-food burger, this reporter can attest that sustainability, in all its forms, is the last thing that comes to mind when swallowing a morbidly-delicious bite of machine-stamped ground beef.

For those who haven’t seen “Super Size Me” or read “Fast Food Nation,” quick-serve restaurants are not known for their commitment to “green” business practices, progressive political causes or reliance on alternative energy – all except, perhaps, Burgerville.

A day after the Vancouver-based food chain lost to Stumptown grocer New Seasons Market for most progressively-minded business at the Oregon Bus Project’s Wheelies Awards in Portland this week, the VBJ spoke with Burgerville supply chain director Alison Dennis about the company’s unique blend of fast-food convenience and sustainable ethos.

“It’s about putting a priority on our entire food supply chain, from the farmers, ranchers and fishers to the guests at our restaurants that eat our food,” Dennis said.

Even in a recession, Dennis says Burgerville is committed to spending 70 percent of its total food budget on local producers. “It’s just strengthening our relationships for the long haul,” she said. “It’s important to sustain our food systems through good times and in bad.”

Burgerville, owned by The Holland Inc., made a reinvigorated push this week touting the company’s locally-focused philosophy just as it released its new October seasonal menu.

Well-known locally for its use of wind-generated energy at all of its restaurants, along with its recent decision to allow bicyclists to order food at its drive-thru locations, the VBJ asked Dennis if she was feeling any competitive, yet progressive, heat from this week’s High-Road BUS-iness Award winner New Seasons.

Dennis didn’t take the bait: “It’s great that there are local businesses out there sharing the same values that we do.”