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Akindo Sushiro

A Partner for Growth

Akindo Sushiro (“SUSHIRO”) was founded in 1999, as a result of a merger of two sushi restaurant chains separately established by two brothers. SUSHIRO was listed on the 2nd section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2003, when it was the second largest restaurant within the sushi industry, both in terms of sales and store count. However, managing the company had become increasingly challenging as the founders stepped back from day-to-day oversight and as the restaurants multiplied in numbers. SUSHIRO’s then-President sought a partner to realize further growth, and met Unison Capital.

SUSHIRO, which offered high quality sushi served by trained sushi chefs for great value, had enormous growth potential. Unison concluded that SUSHIRO would greatly benefit from Unison’s management expertise as a catalyst for change, while retaining its core culture and values.

In 2007, Unison entered into a capital and strategic alliance with SUSHIRO. Thereafter, with the consent of SUSHIRO’s management, Unison took SUSHIRO private in 2008.

Unison’s Support for Realizing Growth

The goal of the management of SUSHIRO and Unison was to make SUSHIRO the leading player in the revolving sushi restaurant industry, targeting ¥100 billion in sales.

A new management team was formed bringing together existing operation professionals who have deep understanding of sushi and store operation and managerial talent recruited by Unison. In addition, SUSHIRO leveraged external resources to adopt best-practices. The combined efforts transformed the company into an organization with ability to plan strategically and execute effectively.

SUSHIRO then shifted its focus to rebranding. Due to its confidence in its product quality, SUSHIRO had only relied on naturally occurring word of mouth and simple leaflets. As a result, the brand awareness of SUSHIRO had been limited. There was also significant room for improvement in the store design as well as the service quality of store staff. SUSHIRO initiated its branding strategy in 2009, starting with the development of the credo “Tasty Sushi for All.“ which became a slogan central to SUSHIRO’s marketing strategy. Stores were also renovated at the same time. To deliver on customer satisfaction, the satisfaction of employees had to come first; to this end, employee support programs such as benefits, training programs, and compensation levels were revisited.

Growth of the company accelerated on the back of solid foundation that was built. In Japan, SUSHIRO accelerated new store openings by not only relying on the intuition of store development team but also leveraging the power of data. SUSHIRO also extended its presence aboard, opening a store in South Korea in 2011 by working with a local partner.

While the company underwent dramatic transformation, some things were left unchanged: SUSHIRO’s commitment to sushi quality as reflected in the higher than industry average cost of goods sold; chef’s pride in preparing great sushi forgoing the use of central food preparation facilities; and corporate culture of always putting customers first. While pursuing growth, Unison preserved SUSHIRO’s culture and values which were core to the company’s competitive advantage.

Next Growth Phase

In 2012, SUSHIRO achieved the goals it set out; it became the leading player in the revolving sushi restaurant industry, and generated ¥100 billion in annual sales. The reputation of the company also improved dramatically. By 2010, a company which never even made it to the rankings, had transformed to take home the top place in a food services customer satisfaction survey*.

In 2012, Unison sold its entire stake in SUSHIRO to Permira funds in consultation with SUSHIRO’s management. With the support of the new shareholder, SUSHIRO has set off to achieve a new goal of becoming a “GLOBAL SUSHI COMPANY“.


*Customer satisfaction survey conducted by the Service Productivity & Innovation for Growth in March 2010.