GBK boss: “It’s business as usual since takeover”

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

GBK's latest menu addition: The Rump burger
GBK's latest menu addition: The Rump burger

Related tags: Inflation, Employment

Gourmet Burger Kitchen CEO Alasdair Murdoch says its ‘business as usual’ across the company's growing estate following its takeover by Wimpy owner Famous Brands almost two months ago.

Murdoch told BigHospitality the 76-strong better burger chain that its new South African-based owner had ‘bought into’ its plan for the next five years to open up to 15 new sites a year and wanted it to carry on driving forward.

“Famous Brands bought GBK because they were trying to buy a great business and that’s what they saw in us and in the management team,” he said. “We’re well into our sixth year of like-to-sales growth, our EBITDA has doubled every 2 years for the last for four years.

“They were buying very strong fundamentals into our business. Are there going to be changes? I don’t think so at all.”

GBK, whose 76th​ site opened in Bolton last week, will open another four sites – in Glasgow, Oldham, Cribbs Causeway and Berner’s Street in London by February 2017.

Murdoch said there may be opportunities in the future to increase the number of restaurants and even open some together with other Famous Brands’ food and beverage brands, but there were no concrete plans yet.

“If there are synergies we will explore them,” he said. “They [Famous Brands] are currently happy with the 12 to 15 sites a year, but if things continue to go as well as they are there could be an opportunity for more restaurants.” 

Competition

For now, GBK, which opened its first site in London in 2001, faces increased competition in the better burger market, particularly from American brands such as Five Guys and Smashburger.

However, Murdoch is not phased.

“Competition is good for us. It makes you raise your game and it makes the whole sector bigger,” he said.

“We believe in the long run we stand for something and are pioneering good food.

“People come for all sorts of different reasons and over time we see people who go to the competition come back because they come back to what they love.

“We believe we have some of the best milkshakes on the market, but some of our competitors are more expensive and, we feel that the quality isn't as good. That's not us being arrogant it's about us bringing our customers a great food offer.” 

Pressures

While Murdoch is confident the group will continue to thrive under its new ownership, he is concerned about inflationary pressures in the market driven by Brexit, rising labour costs and forthcoming business rate rises next year. 

"Brexit has clearly made an impact so importing food will become more expensive and British-produced food will become more expensive because of the cost of oil and feed. What I think is important is that one gets ahead of it, doesn't panic and pass it onto the consumer, because the consumer is fragile and they don't like price rises," he said. 

"You have to work out ways of giving your customer real value whilst at the same time trying to mitigate risks that are coming through. The way you do that is by being ahead of the game and planning before these shocks come and make adjustments. One thing we did a few years ago was sourcing all our food from the UK, so we won't see as much food inflation as others. We are not going to get away with it totally, but we are better prepared than some."

As an employer of more than 2,000 people, Murdoch's business has a large wage bill and with further wage rises planned he knows further pressures are coming. 

"When it comes to labour costs you have to think about productivity and that's not about reducing hours it's about being smarter. I think there's a productivity opportunity for the industry as a whole as well but we've got a lot to learn.

"We aim to outgrow inflation on like-for-like basis over the next few years and I can't see any reason why, with our fundamentals of supplying great food, trying to develop our people as much as we can as well as building beautiful restaurants, we can't do that." 

Related topics: Business, Restaurants, Venues, Food

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