A DAY IN THE LIFE: BARBURRITOMay 2013 | Feature
A HEALTHY PARTNERSHIP
By Luke Archer
Securing lucrative contracts, launching innovative products and closing game-changing deals are all part of an entrepreneur’s life, but what really goes on during the day-to-day operations. Luke Archer meets Barburrito founders Paul Kilpatrick and Morgan Davies to find out what they get up to.
Entrepreneurs are, on the whole, creatures of habit; they have their own way of doing things, charged by a belief that it is the only route to achieve the goal of building a successful business.
However, for Barburrito co-founders Morgan Davies and Paul Kilpatrick routine doesn’t have a chance to establish itself in an average working day, as they work to roll out their Mexican food chain and treble its size in three years.
The two ex-management consultants have taken up very different roles within the business, with Paul spearheading the acquisition of new sites while Morgan has taken responsibility for the coal face, ensuring that their existing locations are meeting the exacting standards that have been put in place.
On the day we met the duo rose at a similar early morning hour and, having arrived at work (Paul by bike to cram in some exercise), spent the first hour of the day completing the unenviable task of sifting through their email inboxes.
With BGF as a long term investor and £3.25 million, Barburrito is now embarking on an ambitious roll-out plan which will include cracking the London market. Like every Tuesday morning, the next task on the agenda is to look at the financial performance of each restaurant (the business now has six) to pick up any irregularities. Weekend trading has been strong across all sites, and today there are no specific problems.
Morgan has taken on the role of managing the day-to-day running of each restaurant to ensure that the treatment of each site is consistent. So, with nothing untoward to find in the financials, he can start talking with the restaurant managers to plan the day ahead. Morgan likes to begin by reviewing pivotal procedures such as operational standards, team quality, cost controls and any upcoming marketing opportunities or events. With Barburrito hoping to prosper from repeat trade, its success will come down to enticing customers into returning multiple times a week.
Today the first port of call is Barburrito’s Manchester Piccadilly restaurant, where he meets with store manager Sarah to discuss the operational priorities for the day.
There is also time for Morgan’s favourite task – introducing himself to the new Barburrito recruits. He wants to find out how their training is going, and he asks specific questions around the quality of their induction, who their buddy trainer is and he makes sure they are generally on track with their development. Morgan also uses his morning to field a call from BGF’s Regional Director for the North of England, Andy Gregory, to discuss meeting with other companies, in the area and in the hospitality sector, that are considering BGF funding. It’s a task he enjoys and allows him to offer a perspective on life with BGF as a junior partner.
While Morgan’s morning was very much spent in the guts of the business, for Paul the period provided him with an opportunity to push on with his key projects. On the day we met Paul had a supply chain issue to resolve, the ongoing re-fit of one of Barburrito’s current stores to oversee and he wanted to get a update from the team working to develop a new breakfast offering. But top priority for Paul is the drive to find new restaurant sites.
Finding a new site involves ticking a number of boxes which Paul and Morgan believe are necessary to ensure that a new restaurant will provide not only the right amount of footfall, but the right kind as well. Sites in high-density office or student populations are top of the list. These restaurants benefit from repeated and sustained visits as well as some social/weekend trade. Underneath a large office block, rather than in an out of town shopping centre, is where they believe Barburrito is best suited.
Paul is working his way through a long list of potential locations; a task which he said can be about whittling down 100 prospective sites to a shortlist of six or so for personal viewing. He aids this task by using tools such as Google Maps and Streetview to get a better feel for the area surrounding the possible spot. Sites which fail at the first hurdle tend to be ones in the wrong location or units that are long and thin with big step changes of height. To help with site selection and to ensure that new restaurants hit the ground running, Barburrito has brought in an industry heavyweight to provide some advice. To coincide with the investment deal, the chain secured the services of former Pret A Manger and EAT-board member Colin
Hughes as a non-executive director. With Hughes having opened over 100 sites across the country, Paul tells me that he has an incredible understanding on locations. Today Paul takes the opportunity to give Colin a quick call to discuss a couple of potential sites in an area he is not familiar with.
Colin has a particularly good knowledge of the London market and has been vital in supporting Paul’s on-the-ground work in identifying potential locations. Further support comes from another non-executive, Richard O’Sullivan who possesses the nickname Cookie having co-founded Millie’s Cookies back in the 80’s and rolled it out across the UK.
While ultimately Paul relies on good old fashioned shoe leather to search for new restaurant sites, today he is hammering out the details of the four offers that Barburrito has recently made, and that will hopefully take the chain into double digits. Nailing the right site, he told me, is imperative – as getting a good one can make the business, while taking on a bad one can take years to recover from.
The lunch period is when Morgan closes his laptop and joins the front line by helping out in the restaurant to make sure services standards are being met, a factor which both Paul and Morgan say has to stay at the top of their priority list. On this particular day Morgan is front of house, greeting customers, clearing tables and giving people an opportunity to interact with one of the owners first hand.
With the busiest period of the day over, Morgan puts in a call with BGF’s Head of HR Jenny Chandler to discuss the latest draft of Barburrito’s Employee Handbook. He is keen to leverage best practice from the BGF portfolio.
Morgan also speaks with Colin Hughes. He wants to discuss the first set of results from Barburrito’s new operational audit partner. While the business is building the bones of a solid management team which can begin to take on further responsibility as the restaurant site number rises, for now Morgan likes to ensure that he has his hand firmly on the wheel of every location.
Despite the two having taken responsibility for different facets of the business, throughout the day Paul and Morgan make sure they touch base to check on the others’ progress and bounce ideas off each other throughout the day. Both acknowledge that being co-founders has provided the pair with an invaluable outlet to leverage different skill sets and take time away from board meetings to evaluate the performance of the company and plan for the future.
Engaging in social media is Paul’s favourite part of the day and in the afternoon he picks up on a couple of tweets from customers which bring a smile to his face and prove that the Barburrito brand is moving in the right direction. Like any entrepreneur, praise brings validation to what they are doing – and during a visit to Barburrito’s Trafford Centre location a week before, his frustrations at what he saw were errors on the restaurant floor were quickly extinguished when he overheard a small girl telling her mother how delicious the meal she’d just eaten had been. He also picked up on a Facebook posting which presented a Barburrito-branded Nicorette style patch on a girls arm with the caption ‘Will this help?’ and a subsequent comment reading ‘I’m hooked!’
For the remainder of the afternoon Morgan navigates around a number of Barburrito’s sites in Manchester as part of his weekly effort to make sure he visits all of its restaurants in the city, as well as its Leeds and Liverpool establishments. He says it is important that all the restaurant teams get time with the owners. He’s frank in admitting that the business is run and operated by the staff on its restaurant floors, a fact he and Paul cannot afford to forget.
Having spent the day surrounded by burritos, rather surprisingly the hard-working entrepreneurs like to do their own cooking at home (just not Mexican!). In the evenings Paul and Morgan both like to make time for their children, providing a welcome break from the pressures of building a business. Leaving the office means an end to email communication, I’m told, but engaging with social media at the end of the day remains a guilty pleasure for Paul and helps motivate him ahead of the challenges facing him the next day.