Buzz opens 11th outlet, but will soon switch from expansion to consolidation
It is less than eight years since the first Buzz cafe opened. The company’s newest outlet, its 11th, is now doing business inside the Esso gas station at the Crawl in Hamilton Parish.
The gas station operation is a slightly different concept from Buzz’s core cafe business. Known as ‘Buzz ‘n Go’, it is focused on speedier service to appeal to customers who are looking for something fast and convenient to eat or drink.
“There is a different selection of foods, for example we have freshly made pizza,” said Thomas Mayer, Buzz general manager, explaining there are items available at the gas station outlets that are not on sale at the regular Buzz cafes, and vice versa.
The Crawl outlet is the second gas station location for the company, there is a Buzz inside the Esso gas station at Collector’s Hill. By this summer there will also be ‘Buzz ‘n Go’ outlets at Warwick gas station and the 24-hour Esso City on Richmond Road. Previously, the Esso stations have operated their own warm food counters.
“Esso approached us. The food outlets in the gas stations were not working and that was because they were based on a North American concept that was not really suited to Bermuda,” said Mr Mayer.
“In the Caribbean they [Esso] tied up with international cafe franchises,” he explained. Bermuda’s regulations rule out international franchise operations, so another option was sought and Buzz was invited to open up inside the gas stations.
The rise of Buzz is a remarkable success story. In October 2005 the first outlet opened on the first floor of Washington Mall. It had formerly been the ‘Take Five’ cafe-restaurant and was renamed ‘H20’. Soon afterwards another small cafe, known as ‘Cafe Latte’ became vacant around the corner from Digicel. It was then the ‘Buzz’ name was born. The new outlet and the original ‘H20’ cafe took on the branding and were joined by a third Buzz which opened in Hamilton Pharmacy, once again replacing a cafe that had closed down.
American Insurance Company (AIG) then asked Buzz if it would take over the cafeteria in the AIG office complex on Richmond Road.
Buzz cafes opened inside the Phoenix Pharmacy at Dockyard and the Bookmart at Brown & Co on Front Street, Mr Mayer points out the symbiosis of such arrangements, with the stores seeing increased footfall from cafe customers.
A vacant shop on Pitts Bay Road became another Buzz cafe, followed by a beach hut building at Tobacco Bay, in St George’s.
“It’s a little different. It’s a beach concession with a gift shop and bar. It’s a beautiful spot and one of the premier beach destinations for visitors,” said Mr Mayer. The Buzz cafe at Tobacco Bay will open for its third season later this month and the company hopes to extend its opening hours to increase its appeal to tourists and locals.
As it expanded, Buzz needed a hub location for its food production, storage and head office. The answer was found at the BAS building on Bakery Lane, Pembroke, which serves all three purposes and is home to a further cafe.
Along the way a Buzz outlet at Bermuda College opened and closed. Mr Mayer said a drop in student numbers made the operation unviable. The original Buzz/H20 cafe-restaurant in Washington Mall is soon to be taken over by a long-serving manager and be renamed.
Reflecting on the success of Buzz, Mr Mayer said the days when people would put up with “greasy spoon” eateries were over. He said: “There is a consistency in the product. People like to know what they are going to get. Bermudians are well travelled and know what they can get [elsewhere].”
The company employs 85 full-time staff, of which more than 60 percent are Bermudian. “Our share of Bermudian employees has been steadily going up over the years, “ said Holger Eiselt, managing director.
Buzz takes on summer students and has an internal training programme aimed at young Bermudians.
“If they show interest and commitment they are put on a fast track to become management and we have had success,” said Mr Mayer. “One of those Bermudians is now attending hospitality college, with Buzz providing sponsorship, and we have another one lined up.”
Buzz also has a programme that gives Berkeley and CedarBridge school students the opportunity of five hours of work per week to experience various parts of the business and see if they would like to eventually work for the company. It also hopes to work with Government to develop more young Bermudians seeking a career in the business.
Even as it enjoys growing success, Buzz quietly maintains a behind-the-scenes community commitment, sponsoring charities such as Mirrors and Raleigh International and sending spare food to the Eliza DoLittle Society to be distributed to those in need.
“The community have been good to Buzz and we like to give back to the community by doing things not for the publicity but because it is the right thing to do,” said Mr Mayer.
Looking to the future, he added: “We are not planning any more expansion in Bermuda. We are trying to refine our concept and offer people a healthier lifestyle, especially the young ones.”
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