"We’re the market leader" - Sushi Sushi

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Australians really love their sushi, which means there are plenty of options and franchises need to be on their mark to survive. Inside Franchise Business: Sushi Sushi is confident in its potential.

Sushi Sushi’s aggressive growth plan is to unveil between 15 and 20 stores, and to launch the brand in New South Wales, where it’s time to go head to head with strong competition in Sydney, says GM Gavan Meadows.

“Melbourne is pretty much tapped,” he says. The newest store in Chadstone is in the Fresh Look food court alongside other franchises such as Boost Juice, Nando’s, Nene Chicken, Sumo and Thrive.

The brand is also embracing new concepts, with its Monash University outlet one of the top 15 performing stores. Next will be the first outlet in Adelaide, at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, and a new-look corporate store.

“Each store needs to tell a story,” says Meadows. Decor is a premium black look with light woods. “The presentation needs to reflect the time and effort it has taken to prepare the food.”

It is the food that is the focus for this brand. “Everyone is a foodie,” says Meadows. “If you don’t match the standard expected, you’re dead in the water.”

That means freshness and quality exemplified by Tasmanian fish, reiterated with stickers on packaging saying Made Fresh Today. Founder Anna Kasman works on the principle of “what I serve to family, I’ll serve to customers”, says Meadows.

The brand has just been relaunched with a national advertising campaign focussed on the tradition and mastery of sushi with the new belief statement: “We train for years, prepare for hours, so people can devour in seconds”.

Authentic ingredients are a unique selling proposition, such as Japanese vinegar and a gluten-free soy sauce from a 350-year-old company.

“People realise if you pay $10.90 for a sandwich, you may as well pay $9 and get the healthy rolls. Sushi Sushi has become really relevant to people’s daily needs,” Meadows says, noting the sushi market is growing exponentially with average transaction values also rising.

“Already this year the head-office team has been expanded. There’s a lot of work to do. We have to grow the auditing, operations manual, warehouse. We use 30 tonnes of rice a week and serve on average more than 230,000 customers a week.”

Meadows is confident in the brand’s growth potential. “I reckon 350 stores would be quite comfortable,” he says.

Company-owned outlets are an integral part of the network. “The value of corporate-owned stores is that they give us the ability to formulate new menus, trial products and standardise operating procedures. They complement other stores in the centre, so we secure a site and then franchise if we can.

“We have an internal ownership program for staff and managers that gives them an opportunity to grow within our business and become franchise partners.”

Multi-unit franchisees are part of the mix, and they are growing, too: one franchisee with eight outlets wants two more.

Marketing activity is reflecting the sector’s growth. Meadows says there is constant engagement on social media with Facebook likes jumping in nine months from 2000 to 21,000, and cinema, TV and other campaigns pushing the food franchise.

The brand has found a niche with Tennis Australia, which he describes as “a ringing endorsement”. At the Australian Open, the sushi chain runs both a retail outlet and a players’ cafe. At last year’s open 12,000 units were sold, and players have requested the brand again.

At store level, a $20 gift card was launched nationally at the end of November. “Franchisees love it,” says Meadows. “They get the money upfront. It’s about relevance to the customer, giving them a great experience.”

He says catering is a growing part of the business, with platter orders increasing 250 per cent on the previous year, and CBD lunches popular. Sushi orders have also done well with delivery firm Foodora, particularly on Thursday and Friday nights.

Sushi Sushi is seeing massive growth in the mothers’ and children’s market, to the point of a kids’ menu being launched. Also new is a deluxe selection. In four months, it has accounted for 5 per cent of sales.

Further innovations will follow, and at the end of this year a fresh format will be unveiled.

“We’re the market leader, with the most stores, and we’re the most innovative,” says Meadows.

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