Sandisiwe Mbhele
Lifestyle and entertainment writer
5 minute read
6 Feb 2021
3:02 pm

Expanding in the midst of a pandemic: what’s Buns Out’s recipe for success?

Sandisiwe Mbhele

Named best burger in 2020, Buns Out is fast expanding when many of their counterparts are trying to stay afloat in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Maps Maponyane co-founder of Buns Out. Picture: Supplied

Buns Out’s expansion plans come while when many of their counterparts are trying to stay afloat in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Friends since the age of six years old, Buns Out founder’s young entrepreneurs Tom Savage and Maps Maponyane are mastering what they currently know, making the best burgers in town. Barely six months in business, the unprecedented coronavirus halted many companies’ plans for 2020 and caused mass closures.

Savage says the initial stages of hard lockdown brought up a lot of emotion, and they didn’t have a game plan as there was no clarity on how long it would last. Maps adds they could foresee a lockdown due to the rise in Covid-19 cases and made a decision early on that their employees and customers safety came first, and closed shop earlier.

ALSO READ: Maps Maponyane closes Buns Out ‘indefinitely’

“The inevitable was coming, we could see people were a little bit unsure of going out. So let’s see what we can do after this to keep doors open as long as possible and jobs.”

Some of their plans did not materialise in the year, however, their intentions of creating a strong brand continued.

“One thing we hoped going into 2020 was expansion and some of that was done by solidifying our position in the market. The first opportunity was to say we are Buns Out, we are more than just a corner shop in Linden.

“The second opportunity is that if we have more than one store and one of them starts to slow down for whatever reason and not able to carry itself we have more than one source of income,” Savage said. Ideally, they hoped by the end of 2020 to have added three extra venues.

Without a playbook for expansion, and without being able to see what their counterparts in the same position were doing, Buns Out’s main goal coming out of the harder lockdowns was sustaining the business, while retaining and create job opportunities.

“A lot of people were being retrenched, a lot of people were losing their jobs. We were saying to ourselves ‘how can we combat that?’ To put people back to work, put food on the table, even if it was for two more people getting employed.”

One of the biggest reasons they opened their restaurants was to be part of the solution of the massive issue of unemployment in South Africa, Maps explains.

Buns Out. Picture: Supplied

As things started falling into place, they opened their second location in Rosebank in late September. None of their locations are in traditional malls, since they had decided early on that competing with big players in the same space wasn’t in their interest.

Maps says: “We wanted to give an offering that wasn’t there and the best place to do that was out of a mall. To be able to show that the brand can stand alone when we grow more with customers, continue to grow that loyalty, product, service and experience, that’s when possibly you might see us in a shopping mall.”

 

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Norwood followed just two months after Rosebank Buns Out, and Tom and Maps believe that the risks will pay off.

In the world of burgers, keeping a fickle market excited can be challenging and Maps who knows all too well how tough it can be keeping a market interested through his own personal brand.

“To keep the excitement and experience alive in the middle of the pandemic one of the ways was for me and Tom to do personalised deliveries. It’s definitely the time for us to connect as much as possible with our customers, to show them during this time that we are grateful for the business they have given us.”

READ NEXT: WATCH: Maps makes fan’s birthday wish come true with personal delivery of Buns Out

Not letting any time go to waste, they also increased the quality of their products, and it shows. Buns Out burgers are packed with flavour and have won acclaim locally and across the globe. Winning Best Burger Joint of the Year at the Luxe Restaurant Awards 2020, their juicy beef, chicken, vegan fried chicken burgers, onion rings and more are simple, yet tasty and people keep going back for more.

Buns Out burgers. Picture: Supplied

ALSO READ: Lorna Maseko wins culinary icon award, Maps Buns Out still best burger joint

With Tom having 12-years of experience in the restaurant industry he shared some of the interesting experiences he has had.

“Everyone has an opinion, ideas etcetera, but sometimes it’s not feasible or achievable. I used to work at an Asian restaurant and people use to bring their own pizza. With Buns Out we haven’t had any crazy requests, people know to expect burgers and they understand that.

“When we started we were clear, we are fast, fun and simple. You come in, sit, eat your burger and then go.”

Essentially not a full-on three-course restaurant or fine dining experience but still very modern and satisfying.

But some people wanted more, Maps says South African restaurants have a reputation of specialisation in everything.

“You get there and you get choice anxiety because there are sixty to seventy items to choose from. You go to a sushi restaurant and you probably could order a curry.”

This is not Buns Out, it will consistently be what its, the best quality burgers and not doing things half done.

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