Industry News | August 19, 2011 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Elevation Burger Finds Success with Outsourcing

Hans Hess, founder of organic hamburger chain Elevation Burger, has relied on outsourcing for everything from engineering to graphic design.

He uses Elance.com, a platform for online employment that matches contractors with companies looking to hire. Working this way has saved the Falls Church, Virginia-based chain, which now operates 19 stores, thousands of dollars.

How did you get started with Elance?

I found out about them pretty early when they started and loved the fact that I could have project work outsourced to somebody who had a lot of technical competence. We find a lot of people on Elance may have a day job in their area of expertise and they’re doing this on the side.

Tell readers about the first project.

The first one was the logo for Elevation Burger. It was a guy in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). I got in touch with him; he had a good portfolio. At first I was hesitant, how is this going to work? But I found he would basically work during my evening. I would email him in the afternoon, and then the next step would be done the next morning. I had all day to think about it and make a decision.

What other projects have you done?

The best deal I ever found on Elance was a patent attorney. The price comparison there was hugely advantageous. And probably the most significant thing I’ve done was I invented a new griddle, a conveyor griddle. We had that thing built and we put it in our newest location, Germantown, Maryland.

We’re testing the prototype there as we speak. Then I had an app built for the new griddle system to coordinate fry production with the burgers.

What is the RFP process like?

It’s basically like typing an email. I’ll just outline what I want in the project. Then I’ll send them a nondisclosure agreement and detailed project requirements. They’ll send me a proposal with a price. It’s as simple as that. If you want only local providers or whatever, you can pick.

How much do you think you’ve saved?

It’s in the tens of thousands. Take the engineer that did the original design for the griddle – if I went through an engineering firm with overhead and offices and stuff like that, I would easily have spent two to three times what I spent.

Are there any disadvantages?

I had one bad experience. I had another little app … that I wanted to build and I found a guy overseas to do it, and basically he sent me the first version and [it] wasn’t anything like I specified. I’d already paid him half the money at this point, and he was basically unresponsive. I got burned. So there is some risk in finding the right person for the job. It’s just a matter of getting into it and really vetting your candidates.

How much does the current economy make you feel about your decision to outsource?

It’s such an efficient way to get work parceled out from a monetary perspective. Who doesn’t want that as an option?

Everybody is scrambling, saying how can we cut costs, how can we cut expenses? 

By Deborah Cohen