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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 10th May 2019 - Capdesia acquires minority stake in Wasabi; set for further growth
Capdesia acquires minority stake in Wasabi; set for further growth: London-based private equity firm Capdesia, which was founded in 2017 by Christopher Unrath and Niels Lorijn, formerly of US private debt firm CapitalSpring, has acquired a minority stake in sushi and bento chain Wasabi. At the same time, Sushiro Global Holdings, Japan’s largest publicly-listed sushi chain operator, has also invested in the business. As mooted by Propel earlier this year, Capdesia, which also includes Ashton Crosby, who has worked at Tesco Hospitality and Harris+Hoole, and Abe Matamoras, who consulted at Wagamama and Leon, among its senior team, is backing the existing management team at Wasabi, led by founder Dong Hyun Kim. Since opening its first store in Embankment in 2003, the Wasabi Group has grown to 55 sites in the UK and a further five sites in the US. The new capital injection will be used to support the next phase of Wasabi’s growth including the expansion of its UK portfolio, a refurbishment programme of existing stores, further expansion of its US presence; and development of other commercial opportunities for the brand, which already has a retail partnership with Sainsbury’s. Capdesia’s co-investors in the transaction include Sushiro Global Holdings, Japan’s largest publicly-listed sushi chain operator, and Regis Group PLC, a leading US and UK asset manager that has established multiple real estate companies in partnership with leading institutional investors. Simultaneously, Sushiro, Capdesia and Wasabi have entered into a three-way business alliance agreement to seek further investment and business development opportunities, leveraging each other’s industry resources and supporting each other’s expansion plans across Europe and globally. Hyun Kim said: “I am extremely proud of what the team at Wasabi has achieved over the last 15 years, from the first days at Camden Market right up to today, and I’m incredibly grateful to all those who have contributed to our story so far. I have always believed in the potential of the Wasabi brand and I wanted to share that experience with more customers every day. I am pleased to have found the right partner to help us to continue our journey and we look forward to taking Wasabi to the next stage of expansion with Capdesia.” Capdesia co-founder and managing director, Crosby, said “As sector specialist investors, we seek to partner with exceptional entrepreneurs in fast growing branded food-service chains across Europe. We invest flexible growth capital to support founders and operators and utilise our team’s decades of international operating experience and deep industry knowledge to help accelerate our portfolio companies’ growth, both domestically and abroad. In Wasabi, we identified a robust core business with above-average site-level economics and strong customer loyalty that is benefitting from the changing consumer demand towards healthier food and faster speed of service. We were immediately struck by the quality of its food, its competitive price point and its lean and scalable operating model. We look forward to writing this new chapter in Wasabi’s history together with its founder Dong Hyun Kim and the management team.” Following a long-standing relationship with Wasabi, funding for the transaction has been provided by HSBC. Wasabi appointed PwC at the end of October to help it secure a cash injection. Capdesia is believed to have fought off competition from Graphite Capital, which backs Hawksmoor and The New World Trading Company, and Rutland Partners, the turnaround expert that last year sold its stake in Pizza Hut Restaurants, for the chance to invest in Wasabi. Endless, the turnaround expert that formerly backed West Cornwall Pasty Co, dropped out of the process late last year.

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