Burgerville Announces New Investors, Plan to Add Restaurants

Jason E. Kaplan
Burgerville CEO Ed Casey is among a group of new investors at the Pacific Northwest drive-through chain

The popular PNW fast food chain considered selling to embattled investment firm Sortis Capital but instead will expand with new locations starting in Salem and Keizer.

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After a few tough years, fast food chain Burgerville has announced new investors and an ambitious growth plan.

Under a deal that closed Tuesday, longtime Burgerville owners the Mears family will remain shareholders with an ownership stake granted to an investment group featuring a few notable names. Specifics like the total dollar amount have not been disclosed.

Known investors include former Dutch Bros and Stumptown Coffee Roasters boss Joth Ricci, current Burgerville CEO Ed Casey and Paul Brenneke, founder and executive chairman of Portland investment firm Sortis Holdings.

“The new investor group has deep ties to the Pacific Northwest and is committed to Burgerville’s mission of sustainability and premium quality,” Casey wrote in a statement. “Their commitment to the company and its values will ensure that Burgerville will remain the local, community-focused favorite that it’s always been.”

Casey will stay on as CEO and the current management team will remain in place, according to the release.

Ricci, who left Dutch Bros in 2023 after taking the company public, will serve as Burgerville’s executive chairman.

Prior to the announcement, Willamette Week reported that Sortis was in talks with Burgerville in late 2023 to buy the company for $48 million, though the deal appeared to be dead.

During the pandemic, Brenneke and the affiliated Sortis Hospitality took big swings, buying distressed Portland food and beverage chains including Sizzle Pie and Bamboo Sushi. Lately some of those businesses have made headlines for layoffs, lawsuits and evictions.

The Portland Business Journal, which was the first to report on the deal last week, quoted Ricci saying Brenneke has “been tremendously helpful in putting this together. But he will not be involved in running any of the business. He’s not on the board. Not his thing.” That story did not say whether Brenneke was an investor, but WW later reported that he is part of the investment group and that Sortis is not.

Reached for clarity on Brenneke’s involvement, a Sortis Capital representative confirmed that Brenneke as an individual is one of the investors.

“This is (Brenneke’s) personal investment — Sortis had nothing to do with it,” spokesperson John McIsaac told Oregon Business.

Paul Brenneke. Photo credit: Jason E. Kaplan

For Burgerville, fresh investment means an immediate plan to expand to Salem and Keizer with talk of adding 10 stores within a year. The brand expects new locations to sprout north and east of its current northernmost outpost in Centralia, Wash. In many locations, Burgerville will be a tenant in existing real estate.

Ricci told the PBJ at least 10 Sonic restaurants could be converted to Burgervilles, noting that Dutch Bros. had converted some former Sonics to Dutch Bros. coffee stands.

Burgerville currently has 39 locations with its 40th, in Wilsonville, scheduled to open this year. Prior to Wilsonville, the company went eight years without a new location.

Casey told the PBJ the burger chain struggled during the pandemic with staffing and service times. He said he and the Mears family discussed bringing in outside investors starting in 2023.

Burgerville was founded in 1961 in Vancouver, Wash. by George Propstra, whose family still owns the company.

The chain made a name in the Pacific Northwest as an early adopter of local ingredients and sustainable business practices. Its menu features mainstay burgers and fries as well as seasonal offerings like fried asparagus, Walla Walla onion rings and strawberry lemonade. It employs approximately 1,500 people.

Earlier this year, popular California drive-through chain In-N-Out Burger began inroads in the Portland-area market with announcements of new locations in Beaverton and Vancouver.

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