BURGER WISCONSIN from grill to till

Ben and Nikki Wilkinson loving the Burger Wisconsin life

Ben and Nikki Wilkinson loving the Burger Wisconsin life

Burger Wisconsin training gets brother and sister team into business

Ben and Nikki Wilkinson have been living in a ‘bit of a blur’ this year since they bought their first Burger Wisconsin outlet in January 2017. ‘We’ve put in some long shifts since,’ grins Ben, ‘but we’ve learned a lot and we are loving the life.’ 

The brother and sister duo are only in their twenties but have business in their blood. ‘Both our father and grandfather owned supermarkets so we know the basics, but we felt that for our first venture it was important to have a franchise behind us,’ says Ben. ‘I’ve been very involved in motorsport and Nikki has been in various roles involving hospitality and bars, and although we looked at a tyre shop, food seemed a better bet! 

‘Franchise New Zealand magazine was an excellent introduction to what franchising is, and what is available,’ says Ben. ‘Our lawyer gave us copies and we read a couple of articles about Burger Wisconsin and how the new owners were bringing a lot of expertise to an established brand. That really interested us. We’d been tempted by independent business, but Dad was happy to act as guarantor on Burger Wisconsin because of its reputation and the people behind it. He was also keen to get shot of us into our own business - but that’s another story!’ he laughs. 

Burger Wisconsin has been a New Zealand favourite since 1989, but the company has been revitalised since being bought by Mariposa Restaurant Holdings (the company behind the phenomenally successful Mexicali Fresh franchise). While keeping the gourmet burger focus for which Burger Wisconsin is famous, they have added a fresh look, better systems, better support and more buying power – all making a big difference to franchisee profitability. 

incredibly smooth process

Ben and Nikki looked at opening a brand new outlet, but when they discovered the existing Burger Wisconsin in Auckland’s trendy Ponsonby area was going to be available early in 2017, they felt it was such an excellent site that they shouldn’t hesitate. ‘So everything speeded up – we charged in and did all our training in three weeks from grill to till at the Onehunga outlet so we were ready for January.’ 

Alongside this fast-track training, Ben says the franchisor made the whole process of taking over ‘incredibly smooth. All the processes are in place and we had some of the Burger Wisconsin team with us virtually full time when we opened. The location is great – Burger Wisconsin has been here possibly longer than either of us has been alive and has only changed hands twice! It’s a thriving outlet in a first class area just ripe for growth.’ 

fresh approach to favourite brand

With 22 existing Burger Wisconsin stores around the country already part-way through a refurbishment programme, the company is launching a brand new store at The Crossing in Tauranga at the end of April. 

‘This is an exciting new venture – our first in a mall – which brings together all the elements we have been developing for the last couple of years,’ says Conor Kerlin, the CXO (Chief Experience Officer) for MRH and one of the family that created Mexicali Fresh. 

‘When we bought Burger Wisconsin, we immersed ourselves in it to try and uncover exactly what made it such an iconic part of Kiwi culture. The fastest-growing parts of the eating out sector are fast casual dining and healthy eating – both areas where Burger Wisconsin has always excelled – but markets change, so we wanted to combine the best of the old with a fresh approach to attract new customers while satisfying our loyal fans. We also wanted to ensure it was really worthwhile for franchisees, and I think Tauranga will showcase just what an exciting opportunity we have to offer.’ 

opportunities throughout nz

The company is looking to attract more new franchisees like Ben and Nikki to take Burger Wisconsin further into cities and towns around the country. ‘We don’t necessarily want chefs, or people with experience, but we do want people who are passionate about offering fresh, healthy food with great service,’ Conor says. 

‘The cost of a new outlet will be between $300,000 and $350,000 +gst depending on location, but our track record means funding is available from the banks. It may seem a lot but remember, this is about return on investment. Burger Wisconsin can be a very profitable opportunity so if you have the right qualities, we’ll do everything to make sure you succeed.

‘We’re especially keen to attract a younger generation, excited at the prospect of work and prepared to put in the elbow grease to build a sustainable business of their own. We offer a great brand, a great system, a great business model and the training and support you need to help your hard work pay off. If that sounds like what you’re looking for, give me a call.'

27 June 2017
Franchise New Zealand Magazine