“The opening week of BurgerFuel Riccarton re-wrote company history,”
Malte Herzhoff and Stephan Schaefer were unlikely candidates to launch the BurgerFuel brand in post-earthquake Christchurch.
Recently arrived from Germany, they were among 44 groups vying for the franchise, including several leaders in the Christchurch hospitality world. Malte and Stefan were self-described “outsiders”, with no network and little money.
“With so much against us, we said to BurgerFuel; ‘give us the opportunity and we’ll give our soul, our tears, our sweat and our heart’,” Malte said.
It turned out to be just what BurgerFuel wanted, but even BurgerFuel couldn’t have seen what was coming next.
Malte says in its first week BurgerFuel Riccarton sold more burgers – nearly 11,000 – than any BurgerFuel outlet has achieved in any week.
“The opening week of BurgerFuel Riccarton re-wrote company history,” Malte said. “People came from all over and were happy to wait two hours for their order, and another hour for their burger to arrive – it was crazy,” Malte says. “We ended up having to fly in staff from other franchisees in the North Island, and seven staff did more than 100 hours in that first week.”
Malte puts it down to the power of the brand and people’s hunger for good news post-earthquake. BurgerFuel’s operations team in Auckland still use the experience as a model for handling unanticipated demand.
The two also learned a lot, but Malte says their most valuable lesson has been from Ashton Wheelans.
“Our instincts were to ride this wave to its fullest, but Ashton Wheelans have consistently encouraged us to consolidate, to take time to adapt and to optimise our operations before taking next steps.”
Now with three outlets (Riccarton, Spitfire Square and Ferrymead) they’re benefiting from increasing economies of scale in marketing, administration and training, and they’re as passionate as on day one.
“Ashton Wheelans focuses us on the ’need be’ and encourages us not to waste too much time on the ‘what if?’,” Malte says.
“They’re helping us develop and grow in a way that’s best for our staff and for our business. We’re extremely grateful and see it as a privilege to be working with them.”