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Incorporating the Arts to Bring Success and Innovation

Posted by Emily Peck
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In a recent article in the Oregonian about Portland's arts tax, Jeff Harvey, CEO, Burgerville, talked about what the arts mean to his business:

 

Here is an excerpt from the article published on September 22. Read the full article here and find out what the arts mean to Wieden + Kennedy, Provenance Hotels and others.


On a recent Thursday evening, folks walking into the Hawthorne Burgerville on their way home from work would have sensed the walls pulsing. New York Rifles, a Portland punk/folk band, was thrashing it out in the middle of the dining area. As customers ordered burgers and fries at the counter, lead singer Scott Young, in ripped jeans and shoulder-length hair, howled into the microphone while bandmates thrashed on drums and bass.

 

But who was the older guy playing guitar with them? Patrons probably didn't know it, but the man in dress shirt and slacks was Jeff Harvey, the CEO of Burgerville.

Harvey is a guitarist from way back and likes to sit in with bands when he can, but that's not the only reason he was playing along. Music is a creative expression, and creative vitality is central to his business philosophy, he said.

"Innovation is life and death in this business," he said. "We have tons of competition, so it's important to differentiate ourselves."

Harvey uses innovation in scheduling work shifts, marketing, engaging communities, raising money for local causes and in seasonal displays, he said. For example, diners at the new Tigard Burgerville can tweet and post photos to a live video screen inside the restaurant.

Live music in his restaurants is another example of creativity, he said.

Five years ago, Burgerville experimented with music at its Hawthorne restaurant. Bands performed and streamed their music online, and the idea expanded to five other restaurants. Burgerville recently released its second album of local bands (including the Dandy Warhols, Pink Martini, Y La Bamba), to benefit the Portland Police Bureau's Sunshine Division, which gives emergency food and clothing to families in need.

Local music now constitutes 40 percent of the piped-in music at each of the chain's 29 restaurants, Harvey said.

Music is his creative expression, but until 10 years ago, he had an on-and-off relationship with it. "Every time I put the guitar away, my career became harder. I faced bigger challenges, I was more worn out, I would struggle. When I brought it back, I thought, 'wow, I feel so much more capable.' My confidence in my ability to adapt rose. I love improvisation. That's why I love jazz. I'm in a business situation and music will come into my thoughts. Words, a phrase -- I'll relate it to a chord progression. I sing it. Creative expression is a sound business practice."
 

Video: Jeff Harvey, who started playing guitar in the fifth grade, believes creativity is important to business innovation. Burgerville frequently hosts live, local music. Harvey, (screen right, in white shirt), plays a song with the New York Rifles in a benefit for the Portland Police Bureau's Sunshine Division. Video courtesy Oregonlive.com.

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