Hospitality Roundup: New BurgerFi CEO Looks Beyond US for Expansion
07 Dec 2020 - BurgerFi CEO Julio Ramirez has his sights on international expansion using connections made during his time at Burger King.
Ramirez, who was named CEO in October, spent 16 years as a senior executive at Miami-based Burger King, heading global operations and expanding franchising in Latin America. “My expertise from my days at Burger King is growing the brand and expanding it into multiple countries,” he said. “All those experiences are exactly what needs to happen now that I’ve moved to BurgerFi.”
Some of his notable accomplishments at Burger King, he said, were growing the brand’s restaurant count from 25 to nearly 400 in Mexico, and from no locations to 60 in Brazil in just a few years. Burger King has since expanded to over 1,000 restaurants in Brazil.
Ramirez said the Caribbean could be the next frontier for international growth. He added that he’s already had discussions with a franchisee in Puerto Rico, while conversations for BurgerFi restaurants in the Dominican Republic are likely next. Travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic make expansion outside the U.S. difficult, so U.S. growth remains a top priority, he said.
While the brand is well-established in Broward and Palm Beach counties, he said there is still room to grow in Miami-Dade County.
Meanwhile, the company continues to open locations in new markets outside of Florida. Ramirez said the first BurgerFi restaurant with a drive-thru is slated to open later this year in Kentucky.
But he has much bigger plans for the company. “How big is up?” he asked. “The reality is that we believe that there’s nothing stopping us from saying that in the next three to four years we can double, or potentially triple, our size.”
Ramirez said he will continue to invest in ghost kitchens and licensing deals with colleges and organizations like the U.S. Air Force.
BurgerFi recently agreed to be purchased by Miami-based blank-check company Opes Acquisition Corp. for $100 million. The deal has yet to close, but when it does, BurgerFi will go public and trade under the stock ticker “BFI.”
South Florida Business Journal