Exclusive interview with Sticks ‘n’ Sushi CEO Andreas Karlsson

What does the acquisition by McWin mean for the Danish premium dining brand? Sticks ‘n’ Sushi CEO and EFSS Advisory Board Member Andreas Karlsson discusses the new investors, growth plans extending beyond network expansion, and business friendships.

Andreas, first of all, congratulations on the new partnership. You’ve been searching for an investor for Sticks ‘n’ Sushi for a year. What finally tipped the scales for the deal with McWin Capital Partners? What sets McWin apart as an investor?

Andreas Karlsson: We have actually received very ample interest in the Sticks ‘n’ Sushi brand from various international groups specialized in investing in restaurants and the hospitality sector. So, the deal process followed a very traditional private equity approach. What sets McWin apart is that it’s a PE fund run by seasoned restaurant entrepreneurs. People and quality are their top priorities. Henry’s LinkedIn post after the acquisition perfectly captures this sentiment and shows that his heart is truly in it.


What role does your personal friendship with Henry McGovern play? Both of you were members of the European Foodservice Advisory Board for many years and have collaborated closely here. What does this mean for your business relations?

Andreas Karlsson: Henry was actually a fan of Sticks ‘n’ Sushi before we became friends. So, the investment did not happen because of our friendship; it’s an invest in the brand. Henry has been super professional about it, letting his team take the reins. What’s crucial is that we share a genuine mutual respect for our professional roles in the business. So, if the deal had not worked out, our friendship would not have been affected. However, knowing Henry both as a friend and a businessman, I am confident that we have an excellent foundation for future collaboration, and I really look forward to it!


What changes will the new investors bring for the organization of Sticks ‘n’ Sushi?

Andreas Karlsson: McWin didn’t buy majority stakes in Sticks ‘n’ Sushi to make changes. They believe that it’s a quality brand with scalability potential. What they do as an investor is to add depth and weight to the process. They assist companies like ours in exploring new opportunities at pace. They leverage their expertise and resources in areas such as people development, technology or purchasing to fuel the growth of their portfolio companies. That’s what makes McWin so unique and a perfect partner for us.


Comparing the recent growth of Sticks ‘n’ Sushi with that of Gail’s, in which McWin invested in 2021, Sticks has been growing rather slowly so far. Will that change in the future?

Andreas Karlsson: Gail’s and Sticks ‘n’ Sushi have fundamentally different setups, so comparing their growth trajectories isn’t straightforward. Over the past few years, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi has experienced  steady and healthy growth. The fact that every restaurant we’ve opened is still operating speaks volumes and is something Henry and his team truly appreciate. You won’t hear terms like “roll-out” or “aggressive” from me regarding our expansion plans. Yes, we do want to grow, but we will still dedicate the same attention and love to the 28th restaurant as we did to the first. Besides, good properties come like buses in London: sometimes there’s only one, sometimes there are four at the same time. In other words: we could be opening two new restaurants one year and six the next.


You mentioned France and DACH as further expansion targets. Are there any concrete projects in the pipeline? Potential partners, destinations, locations?

Andreas Karlsson: We have an opening coming up in Richmond in May. Besides, we want to explore more restaurant clusters in other cities. Paris is definitely on our radar, and we’re also considering more clusters in Germany, for example in Hamburg or Munich.


Besides expanding the restaurants, are there any other business areas you’d like to grow in?

Andreas Karlsson: We will be putting an increased focus on the B2B-side of our business and are looking to expand our catering services. We currently have three CDKs – catering and delivery kitchens – in London that are catering to offices, events and football games. We see a lot more growth potential in this area.  Hence, we are going to nearly triple the size of one of those kitchens. Moreover, our food truck in Denmark operates year-round and is another thriving branch of our business.


Andreas Karlsson has been an active member of the European Foodservice Summit Advisory Board for many years. Until 2021, the Board also counted Henry McGovern among its dedicated members for over a decade.