In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia

Equity-backed Sushi Sushi is supercharged to pursue multi-channel growth

CEO Scott Meneilly says the brand aims to double its Australian footprint over the next five years.

Sushi Sushi is taking a huge expansion step following its announcement that it has reached an agreement to sell a majority share of the business to Odyssey Private Equity (Odyssey).

The terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but it has been speculated previously in other media outlets that the deal is between AU$100 and AU150 million.

Aside from the brand's transformation, the agreement is expected to result in 30 stores in New Zealand and further expansion into NSW later this year. Sushi Sushi says it is eyeing over 160 stores by the end of 2019.

Leading the charge is CEO Scott Meneilly, who talked to QSR Media about the team up with Odyssey, why wholesale and catering opportunities are critical for the brand's future growth, and how they plan to answer growing demand for convenience.

QSR Media: Kindly tell us more about the process that led to the agreement. What was the strategy behind this move and why is this period the perfect time for such partnership with Odyssey?
Meneilly: We could see lots of growth potential for the business through multiple channels and we wanted to find experienced growth partners that would work with us and assist us with the opportunities.

Consumer taste and demand for product is evolving and Sushi Sushi provides a fresh and healthy, highly portable product that is not only well-suited to a shopping centres and a street site restaurant model, but it also lends itself perfectly to a wide range of catering and wholesale opportunities which are in high demand.

We’ve always remained true to our core values of providing uncompromisingly high-quality sushi in a way which is affordable and convenient, and we were conscious that anybody we brought into the business shared our dedication to our values and our vision for growth.

Aside from the expansions in NSW and NZ, what are the other opportunities Sushi Sushi will be pursuing through the new partnership?
Wholesale – catering, schools, mines, airlines; foodservice businesses and catering. We’ve identified that consumers want our products to be even more accessible and convenient so we’re working with multiple local and national partners to help bring this to life. 

Wholesale and catering opportunities are a very large part of our future growth direction and as a vertically-integrated model, we also have the daily fresh delivery function which is a very significant benefit to our business. Right now, we have interest from government and private schools, universities, the mining industry, airlines and a large array of retail specialist that would love to stock our product.

The other natural opportunities in our business is the line extension of offering more tailored food for evenings, taking us more heavily into the restaurant space and not just a convenient grab-and-go daytime offer.

What are some of the company's key learnings in the past years that will be proven useful in growing the business moving forward?
We conducted in-depth consumer research to better understand who our customers are, why they shop with us and what they want from us so that their experience would be even better. We’re pleased to know that we have higher than industry average customer loyalty in the market and that our customer love us for our consistency and quality. This is testament to our uncompromising attitude towards quality, convenience and value. 

However, our customers have also told us they want us to be more contemporary in our store experience and atmosphere as well as being more accessible and these are the areas we will be focussed on. We will also work tirelessly to remain true to our 20-year heritage.

What are the long-term goals Sushi Sushi is focused on that the industry should be excited about?
While retail has been our core business and we aim to double our footprint nationally over the next 5 years, we’re excited about the broader opportunities for the business via the wholesale and catering opportunities.

Specifically, how will Sushi Sushi respond to customers' growing demand for convenience?
We’ve refined our product and built the back end so that we can support the growing demand for the wholesale business, partnering with more food service and convenience-focussed retail operators.

We’ve been exploring our recipes and have focussed on delivery services and technology to further provide convenience across the country.  All stores are now available on UberEats and we’re launching a new website in May which will allow customers to pre-order their sushi to collect. The new website will also feature ‘create your own platter’ where customers can build their ideal platter from items in our range and pick it up from their nearest store.

Any milestones the brand is planning to achieve this year?
2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the brand. We’re opening our first international store in Auckland, New Zealand in May, which will feature the first iteration of our larger brand refresh which we will be rolling out domestically in late 2019.

Later in the year, we’ll be expanding into NSW which will see us as a truly national brand, operating in all states and territories for the first time, with over 160 stores by the end of 2019. We also aim to double the size of our wholesale business before the end of the year taking us to close to 200 wholesale partner outlets.

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