Maj Invest Equity Sells Iconic Sushi Brand

31 Jan. 2024

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Maj Invest Equity is selling its shares in Sticks’n’Sushi to the international private equity fund McWin, who are specialist investors in the restaurant and food technology industries. The sale confirms the international breakthrough achieved by Sticks’n’Sushi during Maj Invest's ownership. The Danish sushi chain is now going to focus on further international expansion.

Sticks’n’Sushi operates 27 restaurants, with 12 in Denmark, 12 in the United Kingdom, and the remaining three in Berlin. Additionally, the sushi chain manages three delivery and catering kitchens in London, supporting its growing B2B business.

International Success
Today, the Danish sushi chain is a leading international player. Since its establishment in 1994, Sticks’n’Sushi has successfully internationalized its unique concept with a 'Nordic twist' on Japanese cuisine. When Maj Invest invested in the company in 2013, it was primarily a Danish restaurant chain with nine restaurants in Denmark and a recently opened restaurant in the UK. During ownership, international expansion has accelerated significantly, with 11 new restaurants in the UK and three in Germany. As a result, Sticks’n’Sushi has established itself as an iconic brand on the European restaurant scene.

"We are incredibly proud of the development that Sticks’n’Sushi has undergone, serving as a good example of Maj Invest's approach to active ownership. With Sticks’n’Sushi, we have managed to take a unique concept with a special spirit and make it scalable. Our partnership and collaboration with management have resulted in a comprehensive professionalization of the company, focusing on creating processes and a strengthened data foundation for decision-making while preserving Sticks’n’Sushi's DNA. Sticks’n’Sushi has developed a systematic approach to selecting and rolling out new restaurants and markets, as well as a range of other key processes. This has created a robust and profitable business with plenty of growth potential that has emerged strengthened through various challenges, including Brexit, COVID-19, and the inflation crisis. This is due in no small part to Sticks’n’Sushi's strong presence in the takeaway segment, in addition to having consistently packed restaurants. We are selling a company that has never had more guests and delivered record-high revenue and profits last year. We are proud that, together with a truly strong team in and around the company, we have not only met our own expectations but exceeded them. The sale also marks the end of our very successful fourth fund," says partner Thomas Riis from Maj Invest.

According to Andreas Karlsson, CEO of Sticks’n’Sushi, the management shares the joy of the journey with Maj Invest and looks forward to the next chapter with McWin.

"We have been incredibly pleased with the collaboration with the Maj Invest Equity team, which, with their industry understanding, has been crucial in creating good frameworks and structures to support our expansion and future growth plans. The sale to McWin, an international leader in the restaurant and food universe, is evidence of how far we have come together in developing Sticks’n’Sushi. The sale to McWin marks a new chapter for Sticks'n'Sushi. They bought into the strategy we presented and share our ambitions for the company. We will accelerate our growth in our existing markets, the UK, Denmark, and Germany, but also enter entirely new markets over the next five years," says Andreas Karlsson.

New Owners, Same DNA
For Sticks'n'Sushi, the transition is not only about opening more restaurants but also about preserving the core of the business, particularly its employees. Therefore, finding an owner who understands the brand's DNA has been crucial.

"We cannot develop the business if we do not cherish the culture, values, and people. Our new owners completely buy into that premise. We will grow and continue to develop our brand, but our fundamental values and what makes Sticks'n'Sushi unique will remain unchanged. Our guests will have the same dining experience, encounter the same passion for service, and the same authentic experience as they have always received," says Andreas Karlsson.

Experience and Ambitions Create New Opportunities
McWin has prominent chains such as Big Mamma, Gails Bakery, White Rabbit, and L’Osteria in its portfolio, but it also stands out in food technologies. Andreas Karlsson believes there is a strong synergy in this regard.

"They are a dream owner for us. Their track record in the restaurant industry speaks for itself, and they have repeatedly proven that they can create healthy growth. We are constantly looking to optimize our own processes and technologies, and here we can further progress with McWin as a partner," says Andreas Karlsson.

McWin sees tremendous potential for the concept and recognizes that Sticks’n’Sushi has managed to maintain a unique culture and a strong brand alongside its growth.

"We believe that guests demand high quality at a fair price, good service, and a special experience when dining out. Sticks'n'Sushi fully delivers this. It is crucial for the further development of the company to nurture the culture, values, and people that have enabled the success so far. Andreas and the founders of Sticks'n'Sushi have created a special brand and company. The foundation is clearly in place for further growth in both new and existing markets," says Harry Goss, partner and leader of Foodservice at McWin.

The investment is made in collaboration with Polaris Flexible Capital, led by partners Jesper Langmack and Kent Brovn Arp.

About Maj Invest Equity
With approximately DKK 14 billion under management, Maj Invest Equity is among the leading private equity investors in Denmark, focusing on medium-sized companies. The ownership of Sticks’n’Sushi A/S was in the Maj Invest Equity 4 K/S fund. Since 2005, Maj Invest Equity has made investments in domestic and international companies for several funds and has, during the same period, sold more than 50 companies. Maj Invest Equity is part of the Maj Invest group.

About McWin Capital Partners
McWin is a private investment company founded by Henry McGovern and Steven K. Winegar, which, together with affiliated companies, it has approximately DKK 7.5 billion under management. The company invests in companies in the food service and food technology sectors. Their food service investments include Gail’s and White Rabbit in the UK, Big Mamma in France, L’Osteria in Germany, and several other restaurant groups throughout Europe. Food technology investments include companies in alternative protein sources such as BlueNalu, Perfect Day, The Every Company, Impossible Foods, and UPSIDE Foods, the sustainable packaging company Footprint, and the vertical farming company Oishii. Most of their investment team, including the two founders of the company, has experience in the food industry.

About Sticks’n’Sushi
Sticks’n’Sushi opened its first restaurant in 1994 on Nansensgade in Copenhagen as one of the first restaurants in the city specializing in Japanese sushi. The founders were the Japanese-Danish brothers Kim and Jens Rahbek Hansen, along with Danish Thor Andersen. Sticks’n’Sushi has approximately 1,400 employees, operates 27 restaurants, and welcomes more than two million guests annually.