Onside Issue 5 - 43

"The explosion in street food, encouraged by city marketing
bodies looking to animate their public spaces and create
experiences has been a trend."

The list of successful businesses that have benefited
from investment or advice from Seneca team
members is extensive. Here we catch up with
one such business.
Back in 2005, Morgan Davies had a plan. Along with
business partner Paul Kilpatrick, he'd built a reputation
for quality, fresh, fast food at West Didsbury takeaway
Globe. Davies was convinced that Manchester was ready
for a new lunchtime or informal evening option. An
alternative to the chippy, the deli sandwich, the high street
baker. It was time for Barburrito, the UK's first burrito bar.
From its launch in Piccadilly Gardens in December
2005, Barburrito has flourished into the UK's first
national burrito brand, with four Manchester
locations, three in London and more across Liverpool,
Leeds, Nottingham and Cardiff. It has just opened at
Newcastle's Metrocentre, with Derby next.
Five more will soon follow in Scotland after Barburrito
bought five-strong chain Pinto Mexican Kitchen in
November last year. Davies, himself brought up in
Scotland, is excited by this, he tells me as we sit down
to chat in the Woodstock, near his South Manchester
home. "We saw that Pinto were good operators with good
locations. Like ourselves, they've got a loyal fanbase."
The food Barburrito offers couldn't be much simpler:
chicken, beef, pork or veggie burritos, with a choice
of beans, veg, salad and sauces. The same ingredients
are on offer in tacos, or a salad box. There's a few sides
available. That's about it.

What was the initial reaction when Barburrito

As Davies says: "Nowadays, the general public are
more flexible and knowledgeable about dining out and
understand the trade-off between plated service and

The explosion in street food, encouraged by city marketing
bodies looking to animate their public spaces and create
"experiences" has been a trend. Some cart operators trade
up to permanent addresses, while others are happy to
carry on roving, with the low overheads that involves.

Has the growth of street food been a threat, or
helped to broaden palates?
"We welcome competition," says Davies. "There are
lots of innovative operators out there - people can
operate at low volume and still make money. But I've
not seen anyone affect our sales. We've grown like-forlike sales every year since we started, usually in the
high single digits or double digits."
Barburrito has moved up in the world. In 2009, to support
its expansion plans, it welcomed in venture capital (VC)
backing from an investment fund managed by Seneca's
Ian Currie, Richard Manley and Steve Charnock. The
team did what they always do to businesses they invest
in - use their business knowledge, commercial skills
and extensive networks. In this case they introduced
experienced non-executive chairman in the shape of
Richard O'Sullivan, who had built up the Millies Cookies
business and had faced many similar challenges.
The most important stage on any business growth
journey is always the next one - thinking ahead. With
that in mind the Seneca team introduced Morgan to
the Business Growth Fund (BGF) which eventually
became the group's major investor. The BGF was set up
during the recession by the major UK banks, meeting
a need among smaller businesses for supportive, more
long-term backers. Graham Turner, who formerly ran
Tragus (parent group of Café Rouge and Bella Italia),
was brought in as Barburrito's third chairman.
Davies says: "The BGF are very supportive, we meet
regularly and they believe, like us, that Barburrito
will become a major, nationally successful chain. They
supported the Pinto deal as part of our stated objective
to hit 25 stores within the next 24 months - we're up to
19, so we're well on track."


"Fast casual dining" was a new concept, and it raised
eyebrows at first. Davies, an affable, yet focused man,
says: "When we started, fast casual was a very hard sell
- people asked 'where's the waitress? Where do I sit?' It
took us a while to get the message across: high quality
food, served fast." Although informality is ubiquitous
now - this is the 'Cheeky Nando's' generation after all - it
wasn't always thus.

price. And other products use a similar three-step style of
building your meal. The days of the boring sandwich are
gone - those people are having to reinvent themselves."



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Onside Issue 5

Onside Issue 5 - Cover1
Onside Issue 5 - 2
Onside Issue 5 - Contents
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