Unpublished – Hana Group, is the European leader in Japanese catering. With more than 1,500 points of sale around the world, it is a success story of which France can be proud. Back on an extraordinary adventure.
Friendship and the desire to undertake
Hana Group is the fruit of a long childhood friendship between two men, Jacques Attal and Laurent Boukobza.
In 2012, Laurent and Jacques observed a rise in the power of Japanese catering. Indeed, once reserved for an elite, sushi began to become popular in the 2000s with the birth of chains like Planet Sushi or Sushi Shop.
It was at this time that the two childhood friends, entrepreneurs at heart, saw an opportunity to democratize sushi consumption. The concept already exists in the United States and it is time to launch it in Europe. Jacques and Laurent decide to go and see on the spot to realize: ” we were impressed by the potential of the activity: all we needed was a space in a hypermarket, cooking in front of the customer and letting him put the product in his shopping cart » tells us one of the co-founders.
Why not launch in France what is a success in the United States? Their conviction was made, Jacques and Laurent have an ambition: offer quality Japanese cuisine, accessible to all.
Very quickly, thanks to Laurent’s past experience in this same universe, they conceptualized their offer: sober, efficient and above all easily duplicated: a “shop-in-shop” from sushi installed in hypermarkets to the fresh produce section where everything would be prepared on the spot, “show coking” style by cooks.
The urge to conquer
Here they are to conquer the national chains of hypermarkets. Unfortunately, they find it hard to accept that a third-party company comes to work in their hypermarkets. The rejections are on the rise.
The two entrepreneurs therefore decide to solicit independent channels by trying to convince entrepreneurial bosses who would potentially be more flexible and less constrained.
After several months of canvassing, they managed to convince two franchised hypermarkets to open a corner. This opportunity given to them by these two freelancers was a real springboard for the success of their project.
Indeed, the undeniable success of these two openings attracts competition, in particular one of the major national groups which wishes to test the concept. On one condition: succeed in one of its declining stores. “If you succeed, we will open the doors of all our stores in France and potentially in Europe” do they hear. With this taste for risk that characterizes them, Jacques and Laurent accept, with the desire to demonstrate the attractiveness of their corner. Immediate success. Very quickly, 1 then 2 of the distributor’s stores will be equipped with Hana Group corners every month. For the 2 co-founders, they then have to multiply, recruit, improve processes to meet the strong demand that comes from all sides. ” The only constraint was ourselves, because the field of possibilities was open to us says Laurent.
The design of a unique and visionary business model
They completely model their concept and their business model. To Jacques, development, to Laurent “the product and business aspect”: this complementarity will be one of the keys to their success. They then choose a fairly short range of products and simple recipes so as not to be dispersed. ” At 9.90 euros per box of 15 pieces, the price-quality ratio we offer is unbeatable and our concept is a real added value for retailers; with this win-win partnership, our offer very quickly becomes a must-have in hypermarkets says Jacques.
To meet the two major challenges of product quality and hygiene conditions, they choose to source from the same reference suppliers as the big players in the sector. They choose one per product (rice, fish, vegetables), which allows them tohave a simple and outsourced supply chain. To stick to market standards, they train cooks in the requirements of the profession and the customer.
The latter let themselves be convinced by the adventure, which offers more flexible and attractive working conditions than traditional catering. To convince customers, testing sessions are organized and combined with the hallmark of show-cooking. The chemistry works every time. “The figures speak for themselves: 50% of buyers will eat their first sushi thanks to Hana Group, and we are really proud of that” enthuses Laurent.
Internationalization and differentiation as growth levers
After the French market, destination Europe. In 3 years, they established themselves in 5 countries thanks to a product of optimal quality and anticipation in training and recruitment, which they made their priority by opening a training school in London. Jacques and Laurent have never lost what makes up the DNA of their company: the human and family dimension, allowing each employee to be accompanied to climb the hierarchical ladder one by one. This strength of the collective allows the group to grow strongly with more than 200 openings each year.
In 2015, Hana Group joined forces with an American investment fund TA Associates with the ambition of becoming even more international. In 2016 they bought Peace Dining Group, one of the biggest players in this market in the United States. A symbol of success and good management for the two co-founders, who tripled the size of their group, now becoming a benchmark global player for retailers. Visionaries and concerned with constantly renewing themselves, Jacques and Laurent will make the United States, a pioneering country in new trends, a veritable laboratory of innovation.
10 years of Hana Group
Aware of the transformation of the food and retail market, the 2 co-founders wanted to combine acquisition with the strength of diversification via an omnichannel strategy. After hypermarkets and supermarkets, Hana Group has invested in the convenience market (supermarket) as well as that of corporate catering (office towers) and travel retail (station, airport).
In 2019, the investment fund Permira joins the capital of Hana Group, which takes the opportunity to structure itself even more, with a change of governance and the appointment of a CEO, whose ambition will be to continue the development of the group. .
With its 1,500 points of sale around fifteen brands developing more than €500 million in turnover, Hana Group is today the European leader in Japanese catering.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the group, Jacques and Laurent decided that a new chapter was going to open for them and for Hana Group. While remaining the main shareholders alongside Permira, their functions will no longer be operational but only strategic, thanks to stable and solid governance in which they place their full trust. Hana Group’s success story is only just beginning!