Small business: Export markets - Josef Roberts

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Josef Roberts, founder burger chain BurgerFuel who use local franchisee partners in their international markets

Chris Mason, Hamad Albuali (Abdullah Fouad) & Josef Roberts in front of the new BurgerFuel store in Riyadh.
Chris Mason, Hamad Albuali (Abdullah Fouad) & Josef Roberts in front of the new BurgerFuel store in Riyadh.

What are your main export markets?

Australia and the Middle East. The Middle East includes UAE and Saudi Arabia and a little into Iraq but in the future that will extend to Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt (North Africa).

How much of your business is exported?

In this last financial year, 35 per cent of our business was exported. We expect this to grow significantly over coming years.

Have you exported from the beginning?

No - we started to export to Australia in 2006 when we opened a store there but the main exports began in 2010 when we began opening stores in the ME.

What are the advantages of exporting using local partners?

The main advantage of exporting is consistency of product quality. For example our beef is all from NZ, all grass fed and hormone free - so traceability is a big factor for us and our customers. By exporting, we get consistency but it's not always possible. Iraq, for example, is a difficult country to export too.

How did you find your partners?

We visited countries and targeted groups we thought would be ideal for BurgerFuel. Generally these companies were either involved in Food and Beverage or wanting to establish F & B divisions. Generally, with the exception of one, our partners are all substantial companies, in fact, small conglomerates, with turnovers exceeding US$1 billion. Once we were established in Dubai - other partners started coming to us.

Do you have any help on advice with currency hedging?

We sell in NZ dollars, so we are not exposed on currency fluctuation. The high NZ dollar has been difficult and marginal for our customers. We hope that will ease back again over time. That said we have made it work at very high historical prices, so hopefully it can only get better if the US recovers and its dollar against ours, making our products cheaper.

What are your biggest concerns with exporting at the moment?

The dollar and its ability to reduce not increase.

How do you market in your export markets?

We use the same formula as here - start by serving the best burgers in the world, then add exceptional service and a vibrant cool store ambience. A place that people want to come too. Then we let social media do its thing. On top of that we do some above the line activity as well as sponsorships and joint events. There are a wide range of factors that go into making BurgerFuel successful - not just one thing.

What other countries would you like to go to?

Every other country in the world that can afford our burgers!


• The main one is to fully understand your market, local customs and factor in plenty of time and money for the learning curve until things are running smoothly. Finally make sure you have a kick arse product and are competitive!

Next week, we will continue to discuss the whys and wherefores of exporting. Let us know what information would be of interest to you and we will search out the experts who can help. We might look in more depth at currency hedging which would be relevant in the current roller coast environment. Let us know where you need help.

- NZ Herald

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