Boojum owner Azzuri sees losses widen but dishes up sales hike

Boojum will open its 15th Irish outlet at Dublin’s Liffey Valley Shopping Centre next month.
Belfast-founded Boojum was sold to Azzurri Group last June

The owner of Belfast-founded restaurant chain Boojum has reported widened annual losses despite cheering higher sales.

Azzurri Group, which also owns the Zizzi and ASK Italian restaurant chains as well as the Coco di Mama food-to-go chain, said pre-tax losses widened to £16.4 million in the year to last July - more than triple the £4.2 million losses seen the previous year.

Azzuri, which has more than 200 food outlets across the UK, acquired the Boojum chain from David and Andrew Maxwell last June.

What started as a single outlet in Botanic Avenue in Belfast, Boojum grew to become Ireland’s most loved Mexican-inspired burrito chain with 14 restaurants across the island.

Azzurri said it notched up a 9% rise in total turnover to £257.8m.

The widened losses follow a hit from rising interest payments on debts after interest rates were hiked over the year, as well as increased investment in the business.

Azzurri said that underlying earnings before interest, tax and exceptional items lifted 21% to £14.3 million, when stripping out the prior year’s boost from the temporary VAT reduction.

Azzurri added that Christmas trading since its year-end had been “exceptional”, with like-for-like sales growth in the “mid-teens”.

It forecast “strong” revenue growth and underlying profitability in the current financial year.

Azzurri said: “The positive trading momentum has continued into the current year with an exceptional performance over the Christmas period.

“Overall, we remain confident of delivering another year of revenue and profit growth.”

The firm said it invested £22.2 million in its restaurants and stores, as well as technology systems and a push to boost Coco di Mama into a national delivery brand.

Its annual accounts also showed that the number of employees lifted across its more than 230 restaurants and shops, as well as administration teams, by over 740 to 5,693 in 2022/23.

Stephen Holmes, chief executive of Azzurri Group, said: “2023 has been a strong year for Azzurri with growth in revenues and VAT-adjusted profits.”

The results come after recent reports suggest Azzurri’s private equity owners Towerbrook Capital Partners are looking to put the restaurant business up for sale.

It was reported in December that Towerbrook had begun talks with investment bankers about putting it up for sale in 2024.

But on Monday, the group said only that “there is no sale process at the moment”.