Kakapo Chat 003: Mimi Gilmour of Burger Burger

This month James Ashwin caught up with inspirational Burger Burger boss lady, Mimi Gilmour. Burger Burger is widely regarded as one of NZ's leading hospitality brands, Mimi shares her expert views on achieving a work/life balance and how to avoid burnout, scaling from one business into multiple sites and Burger Burger nationwide domination.

Since 2014 Burger Burger has opened successful restaurants in Ponsonby Central, Takapuna and Newmarket. We hear there are plenty more locations to come, what's the grand plan?

Nationwide Domination! This year we will open our doors in Christchurch, Mount Maunganui, Downtown Auckland! Next year we are currently looking at Wanaka & Hamilton.

Prior to Burger Burger you created restaurants that specialised in fast casual Mexican, fish, burgers and fine dining. They say that some of the best gifts come poorly wrapped, what were some of the biggest mistakes you made in these businesses that proved to be your most valuable learnings?

Never lose track of your financials - If the financials are your weak point then pay a professional to help you. Financial surprises are very rarely good ones & they will stop you from focusing on what you are really good at!

You have 3 restaurants with new restaurants under construction, you're a wife, mum to Olympia and number 2 is on the way. How do you avoid burning out and how do you achieve a work/life balance?

When you are at such a crucial stage in business growth like we are you have to work hard to get to the next step. The way I survive these times is by being very honest with myself about what I need to stay balanced & this usually means cutting out anything that doesn't involve resting or time with my most loved ones (family & friends).

You have a unique vision to make Burger Burger the most inspiring work place in NZ for under-25's. How did this come about and how are you tracking towards achieving this?

This came about because it is our biggest challenge in our industry - To find an engaged workforce that doesn't just see it as a means to an end. I thought if I could create a business that inspired some of our toughest critics (the youth!) then we would be winning!

Scaling from one business into multiple sites comes with challenges, what advice would you offer to a business owner who is looking to take this journey?

Do not take this decision lightly - it is a huge step. Business is very different when you are not there to be the heart & soul of it every day or on the flip side of that, to ensure that everything is done as you intended it to be. Make sure you have solid systems in place in your first location & understand the weaknesses in your business well before you consider it.

BB is highly regarded for its amazing team culture, how do you ensure you retain this culture as you expand and scale to all corners of the country?

By creating leadership teams that inspire, coach & lead their teams into success. Burger Burger is not about me anymore - it's belongs to our teams on the ground connection with their local communities. If we can support them to succeed then we hope to be able to share that success with them.

What advice would you offer to a new business owner who is looking to create an amazing culture?

Know what makes you tick intimately and share that with them. People don't work for businesses they work for ideas, beliefs, people.

Evolution is constant however the NZ hospitality is experiencing big disruption at present with the arrival of Uber Eats, tougher laws for migrant workers and the continuing hike of the minimum wage. What does NZ hospitality look like to you 5 years from now?

Eeeekk that's a big question. It's not the first time we have been faced with challenges and it won't be the last. I think we will find a way to make all of this work in our favour and I think our customers will make some changes too. We all have to eat & we all love to go out so I have faith that together we will find the right solutions to all of these challenges.

We see a consistent trend in that the most successful business owners will always know how their business is performing. How often are you checking in on the financial performance of your business and what are the KPI's you are measuring?

As above we keep a daily close eye on absolutely every number in our business. There are two key areas in hospitality however that need to be managed closely if you want to succeed & they are your COGS (Food & Beverage) & Wages. Everything else is much more manageable to control.

Last of all, what words of wisdom would you offer to anyone looking to take the leap from employee to employer?

Do it! And don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. One of my all-time favourite sayings is ‘Don’t ask, don’t get’. It’s not easy but it’s a wonderful journey if you’re willing to work passionately hard.

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