Belfast Telegraph

Company gets taste of success with 64 million combinations

By John Mulgrew

It's a family business which offers its customers a supposed 64,684,500 possible milkshake combinations.

And now Brian and Claire McRandal, the husband and wife behind Cookie Box, have their sights set on the lucrative Middle East market.

It's soon set to sell its chocolate bar milkshakes and baked goods to the growing marketplace.

The business first began seven years ago, just as the recession kicked in.

"From my perspective it's been very interesting. We opened right at the start of the recession," Brian said.

"I wanted to be my own boss. We moved back from England and looked into different things before settling on this. It's cheap to open and there is a lower risk of cost.

"Where I had lived there was a cookie shop and a milkshake place - they both seemed to attract the same type of clientele."

"We opened the first in Ann Street in Belfast while the roadworks were going on. The first six months were very difficult."

The process of growing the business has been an interesting one, with Cookie Box already having branched out to include two franchised businesses in both Lisburn and Bangor.

"There's the economy of scale, and we also get business at different times of the day across the outlets," Mr McRandal said.

"Prime periods would be from lunchtime, but for the Lisburn Road it would be the evening - they are all slightly different.

"For us, it's more about refining the system, and that has to be right for it to work."

Cookie Box's latest milkshake outlet is at the Kennedy Centre in west Belfast.

And it's already proving to be the business's strongest performer, according to Mr McRandal.

"The Kennedy Centre would be our strongest performer since it opened.

"We've had a fantastic relationship with the landlord, and Hugh Kennedy still is very hands-on.

"They have been incredibly helpful and supportive with the business."

Cookie Box is offering potential franchisees the chance to get involved in the business, with set-up costs starting at around £25,000 to get the shops going.

In June last year franchisees Simon and Nicola Smyth were taken into the Cookie Box fold, opening up their first store in Lisburn town centre, with sales and success soon following.

And a demand for their baked goods and milkshakes grew, leading them to open up a second business in Bangor just six months later in December last year.

Cookie Box has also grown to include other products, such as giant personalised cookies made to order - an alternative to cakes for birthdays and celebrations.

Belfast Telegraph