For those who know burgers, Burger Burger is nothing short of an Auckland institution- fueling our stomachs with simple but delicious food and gracing our social media feeds with mouthwatering temptations. Mimi Gilmour Buckley, co-founder and Creative CEO of the thriving burger empire, is paving the way as an entrepreneurial businesswoman, shaking up New Zealand’s hospitality scene with not only her passion for amazing burgers, but also her customer- centric brand ethos. Zara Overton spoke with Mimi to learn more about the brand, the burgers and running the business…
N.Can you tell us the story behind how Burger Burger got started?
The idea for Burger Burger grew from my experience of launching a successful burger concept that my partner & I ran in Sydney. When I returned to live in NZ, and after the experience of watching how successful our ‘affordable everyday dine-in restaurant’ Mexico was, I felt like there was a real need here in NZ for a burger restaurant concept that offered the same experience, so I thought I’d give it a go!
Because who doesn’t love a burger! Oh, and as mentioned previously I already had quite a bit of experience working in the burger game and was keen to bring it to life in a dine-in format in NZ.
N.As a brand, Burger Burger is known to keep things fun and interesting with a number of different social events and activations, such as Burger Burger Blind Dates, Burger By Design and T-shirt design competitions. What do activations like these do for the business?
It gives us an opportunity to connect with our customers in different ways. We love the opportunity to get them involved because in the end we wouldn’t be who we are without them and we don’t pretend to have all the answers! I think it’s important to keep finding new ways to interact with your customers and give them an opportunity to be heard.
N.Triple Cheese Meatball, Sushi, Kimchi and even a Sweet Carrot Cake Burger are just few of the interesting specials that we’ve seen grace the Burger Burger menu. Where do the ideas for these burgers come about?
We, as you can imagine, are all a bit burger obsessed around here! So we keep an eye on ‘all things burgers’ all around the world. We also LOVE to collaborate with passionate producers making great products, and of course we run our Burger by Design competition every year where we get incredible ideas from our customers. Above all of this, we like to have fun and challenge ourselves constantly to make sure that whatever lands on our customers’ plates is delicious.
N.How many burgers have you sold to date?
Over 1.4 million burgers!!!
N.If you had to live off one item from Burger Burger’s menu for the rest of your life what would it be?
I want to say our BB broccoli but if I had to choose ONE THING… It would be a medium rare beef with cheese. It’s honestly a spiritual experience.
N.What sets New Zealand apart from the rest of the world when it comes to the food scene?
I think we are curious by nature and therefore well-travelled, this means that we have a huge amount of diversity in our industry. I also think we are celebrating our Māori heritage more than ever in our cuisine and that is really exciting. I had a really incredible dining experience at Clooney recently around this and it actually made me really emotional.
N.Burger Burger Newmarket boasts a cool and casual atmosphere with neon lights and lots of colour, and its very own Ice Cream Bar. What goes into the design and decisions on the interiors for the space?
For me our interiors should, most importantly, feel welcoming and comfortable for our customers. We cater to all walks of life, so I just make sure that there is something that will make everyone feel a bit special. I want each restaurant to feel like it is its own special place for that local community, so the first thing we do is make sure we find a space that is special and has its own character.
N.You’ve picked up a number of awards at the Newmarket Business Awards over the years, including Best Use of Social Media, Best Bar/ Restaurant and Overall Supreme Winner. What do awards like these mean to you and to the business?
I never really considered myself an awards person, but I have been truly grateful for the effort that the NBA have gone to to help businesses like ours celebrate our successes. Starting and running a business is not easy, you make sacrifices and the lessons never stop coming so it is too easy to get overwhelmed with the challenges you face that we don’t stop to celebrate the wins enough. Every year I get nervous and then on the occasions we have won it has felt like we’ve won an Oscar and how fab is that!
N.Tell us a bit more about BB University?
‘BB University’ is the nickname we have given to our training program that we are developing and building. Our aim from early on was to try and offer opportunities to those looking for their first job up to someone who wanted to learn how run a successful business, and in order to do that we realised we would need to provide a lot of training and support if our expectation was excellence. Hospitality is not for the faint-hearted.
N.How important are your partnerships with local NZ producers?
VERY! We have worked very closely with our friends at Neat Meat to ensure our famous beef patties are the best NZ beef we can offer. This started from day one and we put the same amount of effort into every ingredient we put on our customers’ plates today, so that we can be proud of what we do. As passionate foodies ourselves we are also always on the lookout for new and exciting products and producers who we can collaborate with. We are big believers in two times the passion, two times the deliciousness!
N.How do you start your mornings?
Ideally with exercise at 6am and then schmooches with my daughter Olympia. If I’m lucky I squeeze in a breakfast at Orphans Kitchen with some of my favourite people, and then off to work I go!
N.You’re often heralded as a great example of a Kiwi #girlboss. How does this make you feel?
To be completely honest, lately I have been worried that I’m not living up to the expectation! Juggling parenthood with growing a business has been quite different to what I was expecting it to be. However, what I can say is that my heart and mind are 100% committed to Burger Burger and the many people that help me make it a success every day. I am proud to represent Kiwi Girl bosses and I hope that young women are encouraged to see a ‘naughty art student’ succeed in business. But, as I said above I am also one person in a team and I truly believe that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. I am grateful I am surrounded by beautiful humans who are as dedicated to success as I am.
N.Burger Burger gains a lot of attention on social media, with people sharing pictures and reviews of their food. How has social media changed the way you work?
Social media and Instagram especially has been one of our greatest ‘marketing tools’ since day one because it is authentic, frequently interacted with and cost-effective. Ultimately word of mouth is our greatest marketing tool and Instagram is an extension of that so we are very lucky that we have delicious food and fun interior spaces that people like to share their experiences of with their friends!
N.Your husband Stephen works in the business too. Do you keep work and your personal life separate? If so, how so?
Hahaha no not really! When you are at such a crucial stage in business growth like we are, you have to constantly keep talking about it! We are also very passionate about learning more about business and therefore enjoy discussing it as we have strengths in different areas and after a few passionate discussions we often come up with new a solution or ideas that make the business better! We do of course also spend time as a family – everyone’s balance is different and we both work hard but need time as a family and with our good friends to ensure we recharge the batteries.
N.What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with running a business?
There are too many to mention! Ultimately the biggest challenge is that no one tells you how to successfully grow your business so you have to constantly push yourself to grow: to read and learn about the many ways you could consider running your business, to talk to people in areas where your strengths don’t lie, to check in with your customers to make sure you are actually delivering what they need and to build a team that passionately wants to contribute to the business as much as you do.
N.What are you reading at the moment?
I try to read two ‘books’ on the App Blinkist a week on a myriad of genres from business to personal growth to short stories. Basically, they summarise books into a 15-minute read so you can then go and read the whole book if it captures your attention (and you have the time!).
N.Name 5 people you’d invite to a dinner party (can be living or dead).
- My sisters, Because she’s hilarious & fun
- Marcella Hazan, The godmother of Italian Cuisine. I am pretty sure I was Italian in another life!
- Alice Walters, One of my first foodie heroes
- Yotam Ottolenghi, One of my favourite foodie heroes
- Anna Jones, My new vegetarian foodie hero. I love how she writes and her one-stop tomato pasta in one pot recipe changed my my life.
N.What is Newmarket’s best kept secret?
Burger Burger! Just kidding-ish. We love being part of Osborne Lane. We are proud to be surrounded by some really wonderful NZ businesses and we are customers of all of them way too often!
N.Friends from out of town have just dropped in and are now staying for dinner. What do you cook?
Anna Jones one pot tomato pasta!
N.What is your advice for budding entrepreneurs looking to start a business?
Do it! And don’t be afraid to ask for help. 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!
N.5 things everyone should have in their pantry / fridge?
Pasta, good olive oil, lemons, parmegiano regiano, salt & pepper.
N.What’s next for Burger Burger?
Nationwide domination! This year we will open our doors in Christchurch, Mount Maunganui, Downtown Auckland & Wanaka!