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Boojum: Hungry for Growth

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.

Buying Boojum:

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.

British Burritos:

             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.

The Business Benefits of Participating in the Fight Against Climate Change

Ellen Quigley

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The science behind global warming, and the general trend of climate change, was first discovered by an amateur scientist some 81 years ago. Since it was widely accepted by scientists as being a side effect of human activity in the midst of the 20th century, numerous international treaties and protocols have been agreed upon in an attempt to reduce global greenhouse emissions and waste.

We, as individuals, have been told to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and to cut down on our energy use in an attempt to reduce the negative impacts of human activity. Unfortunately, at an individual level, the impact of our attempt to reduce emissions is relatively small. A recent study published in the journal of climate change revealed that just 90 companies produce a whopping 63% of man-made global warming emissions. Numerous studies have revealed that the fight against climate change could be boosted significantly at a macro level if businesses, who produce the wasteful products we as consumers use, actively made an effort to change production habits, alongside the actual products they sell.

In recent years, the Irish government has introduced more stringent regulation on how businesses should operate in an eco-friendly manner, such as fining businesses for disposing of recyclable waste in non-recycling bins.  However, it appears the general attitude among business owners is that these regulations are necessary evils that must be followed, rather than beneficial rules for the business and society as a whole. A recent survey conducted by Bord Gáis through RED C revealed that half of Irish businesses do not have a formal environmental policy, and that only 40% of businesses encourage employees to be energy efficient in the workplace. When the numerous benefits to businesses of actively participating in the fight against climate change are considered, it’s difficult to understand the apathy of Irish business owners in combating waste and pollution.

In introducing waste reducing methods, businesses save big on costs. Waste reduction can be implemented in all stages of the development, production and sale processes, as well as reducing packaging used on the finished product. The most significant example of this can be seen in Nestlé, who in 2014 removed 175 tonnes of plastic packaging from their Easter eggs. This reduced production costs for the firm significantly, whilst also aiding in the company’s image in the public eye, as the move attracted significant publicity from most major news outlets.

Reducing emissions throughout a firm also has significant benefits. When M&S in the UK introduced its “Plan A” sustainability programme in 2007, it was believed that it would cost more than £200m in the first five years. However, the initiative had generated £105m by 2011/12 according the company’s annual report. Many industry leaders such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s are now following suit, and have now committed to introducing environmental impact programmes, not out of the goodness of their heart, but in order to increase profits and reduce their costs.

Coupled with improving a firm’s image among consumers, the explicit benefits of reducing costs and increasing revenue in the long term should be enough to drive businesses to introduce methods of reducing their environmental impact. By employing waste and emission reducing methods, business can help lead the global effort in the fight against climate change

Can Facebook Conquer Crisis?

Jack Manning

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Facebook, founded on the 4th of February 2004 in a Harvard dorm, turned 15 last Monday. Facing uphill battles and outright hostility on all fronts, it has little time to celebrate. Volatile share prices, data leaks, data breaches, tightening regulations, threats of exorbitant European fines, propaganda-peddling and election-meddling accusations – how did the revolutionary firm that disrupted our understanding of communications become embroiled in such chaos? How is it to go about saving face and initiating a much-needed recovery?

The origin of its current woes can be traced back to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal early last year. On March 17th, details first emerged about Cambridge Analytica’s broad access to tens of millions of users’ personal information. Such data was then subject to illicit exploitation in order to influence public perception of the Trump campaign and Brexit, amongst others. This generated a public discussion regarding users’ privacy, and given its political nature, saw Zuckerberg testifying in US congress. It led to a fall in the giant’s share price of some 17% and a wave of mass account deletions, sparked by Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton’s tweeting #DeleteFacebook.

As if this wasn’t enough to warrant upheaval at Facebook, late September of 2018 year saw it victim to the worst data breach to have yet struck the firm. Hackers gained access to some 50 million users’ accounts and all the associated private data held therein, of which a whopping 14 million had data stolen. The EU was quick to levy threats of a $1.6 billion fine for GDPR violations, and the Irish Data Protection Commission opened an investigation into Facebook on October 3rd.
More recently an international grand committee, including Ireland, have called for Mark Zuckerberg to testify on alleged data misuse. Facebook declined citing the CEO’s attendance of US Congress and EU Parliament hearings. Of course none of this was good for the social media giant’s share price, which saw it plummet to a nearly two year low on Christmas Eve, at 124.06 USD.

 

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Figure 1: Facebook, Inc. Common Stock share price six months to Feb 1, 2019.

 

Buffeted on all sides, Facebook remains staunchly forward-looking and relentlessly expansionary. On the 8th November it was revealed that Facebook had secured the lease of AIB’s Bank Centre in Ballsbridge, Dublin, with the intention of establishing a 14 acre campus with the capacity for some 5000 new employees. The company refuses to be held back by these crises but instead clings steadfast to its onwards-driven philosophy.

Nor is the firm plugging its ears and praying the hardship away. On November 12th, French president Emmanuel Macron announced a partnership between Facebook and French regulators which will see civil servants gain access to the firm’s moderation processes. The six month agreed cooperation will see governmental agents working alongside Facebook’s employees to better police hate speech circulated on the site, and to combat the spread of propaganda-disseminating pages.

It is inevitable that trailblazing firms will encounter unprecedented difficulties – it is how they react that render such incidents deadly or instructional. Facebook seem keen to thoroughly solve these globally consequential issues – individual privacy, hate speech, digital propaganda etc – while remaining focused on their mission of connectivity. Perhaps reports of strong earnings in Q4 of 2018, and growth of about 20% in share price so far this year, will alleviate some of that teenage angst.  The coming months will surely uncover their ability to prevail.