A Northern Ireland family-owned coffee shop chain will create 600 new jobs across the UK and Ireland as part of a massive expansion plan. Bob & Berts will use a £2m investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) to open an additional 30 stores across Northern Ireland, the Republic and Scotland over the next four years.
It is estimated that 10 of the new stores will be in Northern Ireland, creating 200 jobs in the province.
The independent business was founded in Portstewart by Colin McClean, his father Arnold and brother-in-law David Ferguson.
The chain currently operates 16 stores across Northern Ireland in locations including Coleraine, Portstewart, Stranmillis, Lisburn, Omagh and Dungannon.
Colin McClean, co-owner of Bob & Berts, said: "The business is growing quickly and we are ambitious to take the next step.
"We have successfully opened 10 new stores in the last two years and are looking to open a further 30 over the next four years.
"Working with BGF will enable us to accelerate our growth plans and we are now actively looking at sites in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic.
"Fundamental to our growth plans will be maintaining the culture and the ethos which has made Bob & Berts a hit with our customers."
BGF's investment will be used to support the company's growth strategy and will see 600 new full-time and part-time jobs created once all of the new stores are opened.
Co-owner David Ferguson said: "When we first set up Bob & Berts we wanted to offer something different to large multi-national coffee chains.
"Our branding, food selection and interior design sets us apart from our competition and we believe that we have created an environment which encourages people to relax. All of our new cafes will be created with this culture in mind."
As part of BGF's investment, industry expert Mohan Mansigani will be joining the board of Bob & Berts as the company's non-executive chairman.
Mr Mansigani has held a number of senior management positions in the cafes and restaurant sector and played a part in establishing the growth model for Costa Coffee in the UK.
Gemma Hamilton, an investor from BGF's Northern Ireland team, will also join the board of Bob & Berts.
Patrick Graham, head of BGF's Northern Ireland and Scotland team, said: "We are excited to begin working with Colin and David who, in a short period, have successfully developed a strong brand with significant growth potential.
"This investment, along with the introduction of Mohan, who brings a wealth of experience to the company, will help unlock their desire and drive to expand significantly in the coming years and we look forward to partnering with the business for this journey."
BGF was set up in 2011 to provide funding options for small and mid-sized businesses and is now a minority partner in more than 180 firms based across the UK.
Bob & Berts is the third business in Northern Ireland to secure funding from BGF's £2.5bn pot following its investments in house-builder Braidwater and waste management business RiverRidge.