BURGER WISCONSIN everybody knows your name


Burger Wisconsin is a classic brand about to expand

Despite the name, Burger Wisconsin is as Kiwi as they come. Founded in 1989, it can claim to be New Zealand’s original gourmet burger brand. Offering 100 percent Angus beef, lamb, fish and chicken combined with fresh, local ingredients, it was ahead of its time 26 years ago, but now it’s right on trend with health-conscious consumers in the fast casual sector – the fastest-growing part of the eating-out market.

With 22 stores in mostly suburban locations around the country, Burger Wisconsin has an army of loyal fans – but it’s also a bit of a well-kept secret. Now that’s about to change. The company has been bought by Mariposa Restaurant Holdings, the group behind the hugely successful Mexicali Fresh franchise, and they’re planning to open new outlets all around New Zealand.

classic products, new opportunities

‘Burger Wisconsin has a fantastic reputation and a fantastic range of products,’ says Nathan Bonney, the general manager of Mariposa. ‘We create guilt-free, fresh and wholesome gourmet burgers for health-conscious foodies on the run. We grill to order, offer gluten-free and vegetarian options such as falafel and only use barn-raised chickens, lean pure NZ-farmed lamb and certified Angus beef. Even our crunchy lettuces are produced hydroponically and spray-free.

‘That’s the reputation we intend to build on. We’re not changing the classic homestyle burgers themselves – the patties are still made by the same people who made them back in 1989. We’re re-investing to give franchisees access to better buying power, better systems and increased profitability, all without lowering standards. We’ve also introduced a smart new look to the restaurants: classic and uncluttered, with natural timbers that emphasise the quality of the product. Now we plan to open new Burger Wisconsin outlets in Auckland and around the country, and are looking for franchisees to take up the opportunities.’

new look pays off

Alex Foster is excited about the changes. The Wellington franchisee renovated his restaurant in the suburb of Brooklyn to the new design just a month ago and says that it’s paying off already. ‘Our customers love the new look, and we’ve been able to increase the seating area from 10 seats to 24 so that we can accommodate groups and families more easily. We’re at the higher end of the market when it comes to takeaways – our customers are more concerned about quality than price – so the extra seating encourages the fast casual market.’

Alex knows what he’s talking about. He started working at the Burger Wisconsin in the Wellington suburb of Brooklyn when he was just 15, and stayed for 6 years through school and university. He then moved on to work in other restaurants, including the award-winning Logan Brown, before returning to Burger Wisconsin – this time as the franchisee. ‘The store had been remotely managed and I reckoned that it was a great opportunity for me to own my own business at just 26. Within 6 months we’d nearly doubled the turnover and, 5 years later, we’re still growing.

‘Having a fresh, new franchisor team is exciting, especially given their huge experience and all the things they’ve achieved with Mexicali Fresh. They’ve got a lot of experience in store design and branding as well as menus and operations, and we’re all feeling remotivated. I think Burger Wisconsin has huge potential to grow and there are a lot of opportunities out there in city centres as well as the suburbs.’

passionate people

Nathan Bonney says that the company’s refresh programme is well underway. ‘Some of our franchisees have been with Burger Wisconsin for 10-15 years and are passionate about the brand, so our job is to make it even better and even more profitable. That involves adopting successful tools from the Mexicali side, and we’re also opening new stores and refurbishing existing outlets – some of which will be for sale as long-time franchisees retire.

‘We have opportunities for enthusiastic, energetic people of whatever age and background who want to offer a classic, quality product in a growing market. We’ve been able to keep the investment level down to around $180-250,000, depending on location, and new franchisees will be trained and supported by an experienced and dedicated team.’

As an experienced franchisee, Alex suggests that while hospitality experience is relevant, ‘It’s not a must. There’s nothing that can’t be taught if you have the personality and the attitude, and can develop the business skills. I’d say the most important thing is to be involved: apply the systems, work in your store and learn all the ins and outs so you can really get to know what your customers want. It’s a great franchise with great products, and people love it.’

Nathan wants to hear from anyone interested in being part of Burger Wisconsin’s expansion in Auckland or other areas. ‘We have several sites ready to go soon, so call me today to find out more.’ 

14 December 2015
Franchise New Zealand Magazine