Approved by Chuck

Hailing from Finland, Hesburger has successfully combined commercial acumen with commitment to sustainable development, to become a leading fast food chain approaching 500 locations in nine countries

Hesburger could rightfully be considered a household name in Finland, and one cannot overlook its ambition to maximise its popularity, and enhance its image to appeal to wider audiences. The Hesburger 135 bmost recent marketing move that underpinned the company’s efforts saw it engage no other than the American movie star and internet phenomenon Chuck Norris, to shoot a commercial for Hesburger, which will appear in Finnish cinemas, and on TV, in the spring of 2018.

The company’s history can be traced back to 1966, when Heikki Salmela and his wife, Kirsti, opened a small grill kiosk in the town of Naantali, in the South West of Finland. Today, Hesburger operates a total of 458 restaurants across nine countries, employing nearly 6700 people. “In the 1970s, we began to build our reputation at the street scene in the city of Turku, and in 1980, the first Hesburger restaurant was built there,” Communications Manager, Heini Santos tells us. “Our strongest period of expansion came in the 1990s, when we were deemed a national phenomenon. Around this time, in 1996, we opened our first restaurants abroad, in Germany and Estonia. We are now the largest fast food chain in Finland, with around 270 restaurants all over the country. We have also opened sites in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Belarus, and Bulgaria. Taking heed of any infrastructure changes, our restaurant network constantly adjusts, as good locations and easy access are vital in this business. Hesburger restaurants can often be found in shopping malls, and gas stations, but also in their own separate buildings.”

Evidence of the chain going strong can be found in sales figures from 2017. “Total sales increased by seven per cent, compared with 2016, and abroad solely, we enjoyed a 17 per cent hike,” Heini reports. “The growth was strongest in Lithuania, a 30 per cent rise in sales, as we opened our 50th restaurant there last year.

“In an ever-competitive field like ours, we need to get the quality-price ratio right,” Heini begins to outline the reasons of Hesburger’s sustained growth. “We have always focused on achieving the great taste of our products. We actively develop our offerings and the Hesburger concept. Our team spends a lot of time researching taste habits, following food trends, and examining customer feedback, and we are quick to respond to any changes in the market.”

Successful app
To further facilitate customer experience, Hesburger launched its own mobile app in 2016, and Heini sees its introduction as another all-important driver of success. “It practically puts a Hesburger 135 cHesburger restaurant in the customer’s pocket. The app allows you to pre-order and pay for your food from your phone, and pick it up in a convenient time for yourself. You can also share the pick-up code with a friend or a family member, so they can collect your order for you.” The Hesburger app is available for both Apple and Android devices, and is currently available for customers in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. “It has been downloaded over 1.2 million times,” Heini reveals.

Known for its consistency in using only high quality ingredients for its items, Hesburger has put in place an exhaustive set of procedures to ensure it maintains its standard. “Finnish law requires that companies in the food industry conduct self-monitoring that covers food safety, surface hygiene, and product research. Our operations are monitored by an internal auditing system and through partnerships. Hesburger has worked in co-operation with Net-Foodlab Ltd for over ten years. Specialising in quality management services for the food industry, it conducts research on surface hygiene, storage life, and nutritional content for us,” Heini explains.

Sauce specialists
The painstaking internal processes result in the development of mouth-watering items that have enticed Hesburger customers for years on end. “We offer a rich selection of different burgers, tortillas, salads, French fries, desserts, hot and cold drinks, nuggets, onion rings, and soy fingers,” Heini details. “What we are particularly known for, however, are our sauces, including the most talked-about mayonnaise in town. We have a factory in Finland that makes mayonnaise, ketchup, salad dressings, and dessert sauces. The two most famous sorts of mayonnaise we offer – the cucumber mayo, and the red pepper mayo, give a specific flavour to our trademark product – a double-decker burger, called Kerroshampurilainen. It also includes two beef patties, cheddar cheese, ketchup, onion, pickles, and lettuce. A truly legendary burger, it has been on the menu for decades, and I owe its popularity to it bringing together all of the public’s favourite flavours.”

Hesburger has often been associated with its inspiring devotion to sustainability and corporate responsibility. Countless are the innovations the company has pioneered over the years, to ride the wave of emerging environmental awareness. Heini lists some of them: “We continuously increase our usage of renewable energy. Many of our restaurants have solar panels on the rooftops that produce heat and electricity for the restaurant. A lot of our sites have also been gradually shifting to use LED lighting, which consumes as much as 90 per cent less energy than conventional energy sources,” she notes. “Furthermore, we recover waste heat from refrigerator equipment in the majority of our restaurants. We use it to heat the restaurant ventilation system air, and the water supply. In many cases, the heat recovery system produces enough energy that the restaurant does not need any other source of heating.”

Sustainable approach
Even staff uniforms at Hesburger are manufactured in accordance with the principles of sustainable development. “Quality materials extend the service life of our uniforms and make it possible to re-use them when old employees leave, and new recruits join us. Our goal for 2018 is to have the most ecological uniforms in Finland. We are introducing a new collection of t-shirts made of leftover fabric from the textile industry, jeans made of recycled cotton, and an innovative apron that can be recycled up to eight times giving it a lifespan of up to 24 years,” Heini clarifies, also noting that once the garments are worn out, they are brought back to the central storage, and recycled to become outdoor table sets for Hesburger restaurants.

“Entering the German market was the big step that let us embrace environmental-friendly approach,” Heini says. “Back in the 90s, the environmental requirements in Germany were much stricter than in Finland, which opened to us a world of innovations, for example, in ecological waste water treatment, and ecological packaging materials. Today, sustainability remains an integral part of our company strategy. Adopting a responsible way of thinking, and making it a part of the company culture does not happen in a month or a year. It is a long process, and we have to continue talking about it,” she philosophises.

2018 will see Hesburger grow its number of restaurants again, as 30 new sites are being opened in Finland and abroad. The company is also building a soy factory in Kaarina that will address the heightened demand for vegetarian products and meat substitutes. “We will continue to develop the customers’ digital experience, as well, and we are looking to promote certain features of our mobile app, hence the commercial we shot, featuring Chuck Norris,” Heini adds. “On top of that, responsibility and sustainable choices will remain a principal theme for us, and we will make sure that we follow emerging food trends accurately, and develop new products accordingly.”