Colin: Bob & Berts reflects all the best bits of the businesses I had previously. I had a bakery shop with a counter of freshly baked goods and coffee, and that inspired Bob & Berts to bake everything fresh in the morning. Another business had a fully operational kitchen, so you can see where I have pieced things together into one business.
The reason Bob & Berts exists is that I had five or six different brands, and operationally that’s difficult to run, so I took the best bits and put them all under one banner.
David: For me, the best part of the business is opening a new store. We opened in Belfast city centre, our first major city centre store, and we looked at each other and said, ‘Wow this can really go somewhere.’ It was a brilliant feeling.
Outside of new site openings, getting investment from BGF was special. It’s interesting – a lot of people ask how we got here. There was no grand plan at the time, it all just came together. We just focused on making sure the basics were right: Is the product right? Are customers happy? The rest fell into place.
We have been fortunate to move on quickly from sites that don’t work – it’s only happened twice. Another sleepless night was the Covid outbreak and what would happen to the business in lockdown. We moped for a week or two and thought the world would end, then we got bored of that and started to develop a takeaway business, which we always wanted to do as part of Bob & Berts. We designed a bespoke app over six weeks and reopened for takeaway, collection and delivery, which was a success. We were shocked – we thought people would only want to order food delivery but people were ordering coffee and cake at 9pm at night. We came out of Covid with another string to our bow.
Now, we have come out of the pandemic pretty strongly and are seeing opportunities to grow in a market where weaker brands have fallen away.