AN independent Northern Ireland coffee chain has launched its second multi-million expansion programme in less than two years.
Bob & Berts, founded in Portstewart in 2013, has announced plans for a further eight stores in 2019, including five in the north and three in Scotland, creating over 175 jobs.
The chain, which operates 20 stores and employs 400 staff, opened a new larger Portstewart outlet last week and will launch its new Portrush branch in the coming weeks, ahead of The Open Championship.
Cookstown, Newry and Ballymena are also due to get the Bob & Berts treatment in the coming months. A Ballymena Bob & Berts franchise store had operated on Church Street in the town, but closed earlier this month, while a separate outlet on Belfast’s Lisburn Road shut its doors last month. As revealed by The Irish News the latter site is to be replaced by brunch and coffee destination, Output, spearheaded by Slim’s Healthy Kitchen, Gary McIldowney.
Bob & Berts expanded into the Scottish market in October last year, opening its first store in Falkirk. It has since launched outlets in Dunfermline and Dumfries, with plans now in place to open three more in Stirling, Kirkcaldy and Ayr.
The Bob & Berts expansion is being facilitated by a seven-figure sum from Ulster Bank, in addition to support from equity investor BGF (Business Growth Fund), who put £2 million into the business in 2017.
The latest investment programme forms part of a wider growth strategy to operate 35 stores throughout the UK by 2020.
Co-founder, David Ferguson said the financial support will not only continue the brand roll out in its existing markets, but could fuel expansion into England over the next 12 to 18 months.
“We have identified an opportunity to go faster and open more sites than originally planned, and therefore sought additional investment through the banks for the first time,” he said.
“We’re passionate about the service we provide and the communities we serve. Our brand is dynamic and distinctive and we’re breathing new life the high streets up and down the country by driving footfall for the benefit of our neighbouring local retailers.”
Bob & Berts co-founder Colin McClean said the sharp growth of the business is a response to rising demand.
“We are very excited to announce the opening of our new stores in Northern Ireland and Scotland over the coming weeks and months. Our distinctive style and quality food and drink offering is driving significant demand and making Bob & Berts a highly sought-after addition to the local high street,” he said.
Girvan Gault, commercial banking director at Ulster Bank added:
“We have access to a wide network of support and expertise through our relationship with sister brands NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland throughout the UK to help Colin and David realise the growth potential of their unique brand.
“Bob & Berts is a real homegrown success and we’re committed to supporting local operators in the agri-food and hospitality industries to scale their business at home and further afield.”
By Gareth McKeown
Source: Irish News