Coffee chain Bob & Berts brewing up expansion plan

A Northern Irish coffee shop business has brewed up plans to open a string of Scottish outlets, creating hundreds of jobs, after securing seven-figure funding.

Bob & Berts co-founders Colin McClean and David Ferguson with BGF's Gemma Hamilton. Picture: Elaine Hill

Bob & Berts is poised to open its first outlet in Scotland as it looks to tap into a booming market dominated by the likes of Costa and Starbucks as well as cut-price competitors such as Greggs and McDonald’s.

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The business was founded by Colin McClean, his father Arnold and brother-in-law David Ferguson in Portstewart. It is said to offer a “distinctive relaxed style and wide food offering”, attracting a wide customer base.

The company already has a chain of 16 outlets in its native Northern Ireland and plans to open a further 30 stores over the next four years, creating up to 600 full and part-time jobs in the process.

Twenty of the branches are planned for Scotland, accounting for some 400 jobs, with the first stores expected to open in the Central Belt in the coming months.

The firm’s strategy will involve targeting market towns with “strong local communities” across Scotland, replicating its success to date. Its expansion plans are being backed with £2 million of funding from the Business Growth Fund (BGF).

Industry expert Mohan Mansigani – a former chief finance officer at Costa Coffee and Casual Dining Group – is joining the board as non-executive chairman.

Colin McClean, co-owner of Bob & Berts, said: “The business is growing quickly and we are looking forward to taking the next step. We have successfully opened ten stores in the past two years and are looking to open a further 30 stores over the next four years.

“Working with BGF will enable us to accelerate our growth plans and we are now actively looking at sites in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

“Fundamental to our growth plans will be maintaining the culture and the ethos that has made Bob & Berts a hit with our customers.”

Ferguson, also a co-owner of the business, added: “When we set up Bob & Berts, we wanted to offer something different to large multinational coffee chains.

“Our branding, food selection and interior design sets us apart from our competition and we believe we have created an environment that encourages people to relax. All of our new cafes will be created with this culture in mind.”

Gemma Hamilton, an investor at BGF, will also join the board of Bob & Berts.

Patrick Graham, head of BGF’s central Scotland and Northern Ireland team, said: “We are excited to begin working with Colin and David who, in a short period, have successfully developed a strong brand with significant growth potential.

“This investment, along with the introduction of Mohan, who brings a wealth of experience to the company, will help unlock their desire and drive to expand significantly in the coming years and we look forward to partnering with the business for this journey.”

BGF’s other investments in the leisure and hospitality sectors include Bar Soba, Mexican restaurant group Barburrito and Thai chain Giggling Squid.

Typical investments are between £2m and £10m, with BGF taking a minority stake.