Boojum. It’s everyone’s favourite burrito joint, right? Although we are all aware of the divide in opinion about the best place to grab a burrito, one must admit that Boojum stores just seem to keep on popping up out of nowhere. That just can’t be a coincidence. In the next few paragraphs or so we will delve into how exactly the company came to be where it is today (Undoubtedly the best burrito place around), what’s been happening for them recently and where it is they aspire to take their Mexican wholesomeness in the years to come.
Burritos in Belfast:
Boojum was established in 2007 by John and Karen Blisard when they opened a burrito bar called Boojum in Belfast. The idea of having a burrito bar was unusual at the time in Ireland but the couple refused to listen to outside criticism and skepticism and continued to run their burrito place despite the boldness of the move. It took €200,000 to get the first Boojum restaurant up and running and this was the only Boojum around for 3 years until the Blisard’s opened their second restaurant in Dublin in March 2010 followed by another in Belfast City Centre later on that year.
The Belfast couple experienced continued growth and in 2013 opened another restaurant in Galway and their fifth one on Kevin Street a year later. Their expansion plan was simple, to find good locations with affordable rent. It is also interesting to note the couples reluctancy to franchise their business, something that they admit was due to their research into their highly successful US counterpart “Chipotle” and the fact that they did not franchise their business.
The initial success of Boojum lead to it being bought in 2015. The burrito chain was taken over by a partnership between Renatus Capital Partners and former Ulster rugby player Andrew Maxwell. Renatus is a private equity company that is backed by wealthy individuals and this was the first deal for them since their establishment, taking a 50% stake of the company. The other half goes to Andrew Maxwell along with his brother David, who previously ran a number of restaurants in the US. The company was bought for over €3 million.
In the last 4 years Boojum has gone from 5 to 18 stores and now spans from 5 restaurants in Belfast and 9 in Dublin to locations in Galway, Cork, Limerick and even just last month opening its newest restaurant in Derry. The now Managing Director David Maxwell states that targeting the brand at a core market of young professionals and students aged 18-40, with the disposable income and desire to eat out regularly in the evening but also requiring speedy delivery at lunchtime has been key to growing the Mexican food chain. The company has also increased its workforce from 125 to just under 600 employees.
The company has not only been opening up new stores but has been exploring other possible ways to maximise its growth. In 2016 Boojum teamed up with Deliveroo so that people could order their well needed burrito fix straight to their door. Not only this but they launched their “Boojmobile” to serve college campuses and festivals when burritos are typically that bit harder to access. These developments by Boojum really showcase their understanding of their target market and their ability to exploit the opportunities available to them.
In their financial year 2017-2018 (year ended 23rd April last) Boojum recorded revenue of €18.5 million, a growth of more than 50% from their previous year. They did however record pre-tax losses of just over €650,000. This was due to exceptional costs such as store closures during the “Beast from the East” and delayed store openings. The directors state that “overall, it proved to be a very positive transitional year for Boojum. By the end of the period, the group had a strong foothold in Ireland, new stores were established and management was well positioned to explore new opportunities to drive the business forward”. Boojum has evidently put itself into a very favorable position, one as aforementioned will grant them access to expand on their recent prosperity.
Brexit has admittedly been a concern for the company considering its cross-border presence says Maxwell. They are tasked with trading and purchasing in multiple currencies and so they must manage the risks associated with this. Maxwell also states that looking forward they are trying to understand what the impact of a hard/soft Brexit might be on their supply chain and logistics. Despite all this there have been rumours of Boojum targeting Britain in the years to come. Although it is too early to really know whether this will happen or not it would not come as a surprise. I mean where else can you go when you’ve already established yourself so strongly in the Irish market and you’re still hungry for growth.