Creating a new brand in a new sector

The great burrito race

A business breakfast forum, proudly sponsored by

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A report published earlier this year showed that the average Brit now forks out £110 per month on takeaway meals and “a Chinese” has officially replaced fish & chips as Britain’s favourite take-away option.

In such a lucrative market it is easy to understand why operators are eager to find the next new thing and how so many options, choices and alternatives have found their way onto the British high street. However the market is changing and even “fast food junkies” are looking for healthier, more sustainably responsible and eco-friendly alternatives. In such a market it is important to offer fresh and appetizing food, which is reasonably priced and available on-the-go.

Enter, Mexican style burritos.

Back in 2005 Morgan Davies and his business partner, Paul Kilpatrick, opened the UK’s first “burrito bar” in Manchester’s Piccadilly, to astounding success. Aiming to provide high quality, fresh alternatives to traditional fast food operations, “Barburrito” was set up offering food produced mostly onsite on a daily basis, with a strong emphasis on quality ingredients at a reasonable price-point. Within a year the business was recognised as “BBC Best Newcomer” at the prestigious Manchester Food & Drink Festival, and the concept was set to take the market by storm.

“It’s strange to think now there once was a time when burritos were a completely unknown entity in the UK market. While not quite at the forefront of peoples’ minds when it comes to a fast food option, we are constantly educating the market and our efforts are certainly paying off.”

With previous experience in the fast-casual-dining sector, Morgan knew what kind of business he wanted to open and how he was going to expand the model to multiple sites around the UK by streamlining the offering and focusing on the product rather than “gimmicks”.

“We don’t offer reduced prices or discounted food, however we run a strong loyalty programme and customers seem to have responded really well to the concept and the food!”

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At a breakfast forum in the offices of Business Growth Fund (BGF) yesterday morning, Morgan delivered an honest and very interesting presentation on his experiences in business and what he sees as the future of the fast food or casual dining market.

Expansion plans – the benefits of partnership

With great success comes great plans for expansion, and certainly Morgan and his team are not short of those. From the first venue opening almost a decade ago, the business has expanded to include nearly a dozen sites in major cities around the UK including London, Nottingham, Leeds and Liverpool.

Bus growth fund 2Earlier this year the announcement was made that, following an initial investment in 2012, BGF had contributed a further £3.6 million of follow-on funding. The initial investment allowed Morgan and the team to open 5 further sites, and now he has great confidence the second round of investment will afford the company the opportunity to expand further. While expansion plans are always fun and exciting, Morgan is also careful to note the existing venues require his attention too and he’s keen to guide them to continued growth and positive increases on like-for-like sales and to help establish each restaurant in their respective cities/locations.

Other positive news for the business is the addition of Graham Turner to the team as Non-Executive Chairman. As former CEO of The Tragus Group, Graham brings a certain level of retail knowledge, business experience and commercial acumen to the company which Morgan is confident can only be of benefit.

“Graham joined us through the BGF Talent Network, which is just another example of how important we view the relationship with the team here and how valuable the investment is to our business, in more than just the financial aspect”

Setting a business apart in a competitive sector

Unlike many multi-site restaurant operations, Barburrito is not “run” from a Central HQ or office, instead availing of the backup of a “support centre” which assists the individual unit managers in running their business rather than dictate a list of activities or expectations to them.

“We operate a support centre philosophy and everything is geared towards store operations. If you are not serving a customer, you are serving someone who is serving a customer”

What advice would Morgan give to a start-up or entrepreneur in the sector?

Lessons learned along the way

  • Be willing to listen and take advice from people who know more about business than you do
  • Don’t get too emotionally connected to your idea – remember, that’s all it is. An idea.
  • Be willing to adapt your idea, including or especially the branding of your product. Businesses in the fast-casual-food service sector can become tired or dated looking quite easily and very quickly, so be ready to update and adapt your design
  • Talk to your team because they’re the ones who know what’s happening at the coal front, much more so than you do and they will have ideas on how to improve the offering

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“As a born entrepreneur I wake up in the morning with a hundred ideas and a list of things I want to achieve, but I know I am constrained by budget and investment restraints so I have to prioritise the important things because all available funds have to be driven towards opening the next venue not replacing the photocopier”

Business Growth Fund has invested almost £400 million of new growth capital in more than 65 companies since October 2011. With offices throughout the UK and experienced investors operating in a multitude of sectors, BGF is helping businesses to grow and by extension positively impacting on the UK economy. The expansion plans held by Barburrito alone will see almost 250 new jobs introduced to the market, along with all the ancillary services which go with such plans. This is an exciting initiative and one which EP believes will help many entrepreneurs, start-ups and existing businesses with expansion aspirations in the future.

For more information on this and any other EP initiatives or events, please contact Arlene McCaffrey directly

 

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