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Introducing Stickbug, an exciting new Korean Street food QSR concept brought to you by the cofounder of Esquires Coffee* (100+ shops, globally) and...
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Investment Amount:
£100,001 - £250,000, £250,001 - £500,000
Industry Sector(s):
Food & Drink Franchises, Retail Franchises

Stickbug - the rising trend in Korean cuisine

Published: 15 December 2022

Why ‘Stickbug?’

A ‘Stickbug’ is an affectionate name to describe someone with a fondness for eating with chopsticks. Stickbug's distinct logo visually enforces the brand’s culinary style, and their trading statement, ‘Seoul in a Bowl’ connects strongly with their  engaged customers. Stickbug director Doug Williamson confirms: “People are intrigued by the name, which is fantastic.  It’s a conversation starter, and once we explain how the name came to be, people quickly warm to it. The name gives us great bandwidth to expand our offer and is easy to remember. These are the building blocks to a great brand, in my humble opinion.

“Jung [Moon, Stickbug’s co-director] and I felt the name and strapline best defined our target audience and the authenticity of our offer…Korean street market food – in a bowl.”


Why Korean?

The global expansion of ethnic restaurants and the popularity of Asian cuisine continues to exhibit unprecedented growth globally, and the UK is no exception. The rich and distinct style and flavours of Korean food appeal to young and old alike. A change in urban lifestyle shows a demand for an immersive experience with healthier food options, and speed of service that does not compromise quality or taste. “I fell in love with Korean food visiting markets around the world,” says Doug. “Korean cuisine is complex, delicious and diverse. I set to work developing a Korean casual concept in 2019 but Covid impacted the timing.”

Awareness of Korean culture is multi-level. Music (K-Pop), movies, design and fashion all contribute to a consciousness of Korean food and its nutritional values and stand-out flavours. At Stickbug, the mindful menu reflects the very best in Korean cuisine, but with a contemporary twist, that enhances the uniqueness of the country’s food without compromise.

Stickbug - the authentically Korean franchise

As customers demand exotic food offerings from other cultures, the standout flavours from Stickbug, that have been painstakingly developed by one of the world’s leading Korean chefs, work to ensure full engagement with the most discerning customer and build loyalty to the brand.

Co-director Jung Moon confirms: “Korean food culture is definitely on the rise. Industry reports confirm this so we are confident in our decision to rebrand to Stickbug for our European entrance.”

Stickbug is a rich and bold brand built on the experience, maturity and expertise that comes with an entrenched understanding of the vast opportunities within the UK and beyond. Stickbug has been developed to scale as a global brand but with a strong awareness of the need for connection with the local community. This intention does not develop overnight, but is the result of years of accumulated experience in every facet of retail food and beverage operation. A consumer shift in expectation is seeing many brands evolve, adopting transparency and ethical practices, and the formula for Stickbug amplifies these ever-growing demands. Authenticity and a desire to lead trends – not follow them – is entrenched in Stickbug’s retail philosophy. Doug explains: “We knew we needed to develop a concept that exhibited speed, simplicity and delivery and most importantly, economically. These are critical when you hand a business over to a franchisee owner.”

A constant appraisal of all they do, plus a deep understanding of effective retail support, marketing dynamics and industry competition allows Stickbug to regularly evolve and provide the customer with a menu that transports the tastebuds in a vibrant retail ambience, that is inspirational and contemporary, while robust, and maximises efficiencies.

While the name Stickbug is new to many, the sector experience of the team behind it is far-reaching and impressive. Intimate knowledge and attention to the smallest detail, combined with fresh thinking, provide a world-class operation system. A desire to develop enduring and supportive partnerships with franchisees and suppliers is the key to tapping the lucrative UK market.

This powerful platform underpins Stickbug’s ability for rapid escalation of the brand’s profile, and to provide rewarding opportunities in all regions with potential for development. Stickbug is planning to go places…and quickly! The ambition is to launch in the Greater London area, Stickbug has identified properties in key cities and provincial towns in the UK, where the demand for exotic food is already strong, with plans to carry this momentum into new markets as awareness for the brand grows.

The evolution of both dine-in and quick service is a direct response to the move towards a faster lifestyle and economic behaviour, along with social media and the convenience of online ordering and home delivery. This makes it the ideal time to launch a brand that has been built with these dynamics in mind, and
in a category that shown no signs of slowing down.

So, who are the people with this enduring belief in the vision of Stickbug?

Doug Williamson, Director

Doug completed his degree in marketing in 1992 and in that same year co-founded Esquires Coffee, a community-focussed retail coffee franchise, which he expanded from one shop in a small suburb of Vancouver, Canada,
into a well-known global franchise brand which steadily progressed to become 200+ locations in Canada, England, Ireland, China, the Middle East,
New Zealand and Indonesia.

In 2013, Esquires was sold to an NZ-PLC, who promptly recruited Doug to re-join the organisation to expand and redirect the focus of the brand in the UK. A task that required shifting the brand from a ‘cookie-cutter’ model to a modern, vibrant coffee house environment with a healthy, artisan food offering. With a strong understanding of the ever-changing
face of retail presentation, Doug’s expertise in site selection and lease negotiation, and a comprehensive understanding of the planning and construction requirements of the UK market was a valuable asset for Esquires.

Under Doug’s leadership, he and his team brought the fit-out of new locations to fruition, on time and on budget, with a passion for excellence and an identity that was a reflection of the community each shop served. In addition, they doubled the Esquires estate from 24 to 48 shops, and brought on board regional multi-store developers to ensure the ongoing expansion of the brand.

As the concept developer of the Stickbug brand, Doug’s acumen and passion is to develop the brand with a desire to become a leading contender
in all markets and enhance the potential
of the brand.

Jung Moon, Director

A fortuitous meeting between Doug and Jung has been the catalyst for the creation of the Stickbug brand. Jung worked as a sushi chef in Vancouver before realising his ambition by opening the doors in a leafy Vancouver suburb to Pokéritto, a fast, casual food operation: Poké with a Japanese/Hawaiian twist. Jung’s desire to provide an unrivalled Poké experience, and a commitment to the needs of the modern diner, has seen the swift growth of the brand from one to 17 flourishing locations. “I developed a love for Hawaiian Poké while living in Mexico,“ says Jung. ”It is very similar to our Stickbug brand in that we prepare and serve health bowls in a quick-service setting.”

Jung’s dedication to the ongoing success and growth of the business is reflected in ensuring that the preparation and sourcing of fresh ingredients, and the house-made signature sauces, is the dominant contributor to the great taste of every meal they lovingly produce.

Jung’s ability to provide the tools and training to his franchisees is the contributing factor in their achieving of their financial goals and the smooth day by day running of their operations. This expertise, and Jung’s shared values, blends flawlessly with Doug’s vast background and entrenched understanding of market opportunities, providing a comprehensive resolution to all constituents of today’s food and beverage demands. Stickbug is not directly influenced by other brands but embodies a successful and well-calculated philosophy of support and retail expertise, which in turn provides valuable and rewarding partnership opportunities.

But ideas need substance, and the knowledge and experience of both Doug and Jung, to turn these seeds of ideas into an innovative dining experience, is built on the excellence of a complete team. An appointed Head of Food, widely considered a luminary in Korean cuisine, has been brought on board to develop a menu that provides exquisite choice, valued nutrition and the distinct flavours that identify Stickbug as a Korean taste sensation for everyone. Jung tells us, “Poké is really a summer food. It really came down to identifying the offering better to suit the cold, wet British winters. Both Doug and I have had the experience of doing business in many countries and one thing we have learned is that we have to localise the offer.”

This immersive Korean food experience is duplicated in the Stickbug store design, creating a vibrant and memorable experience that makes creative use of existing spaces and optimises efficiencies of service and fit-out production costs. The appointed store designer’s wealth of knowledge of retail in general, and food and beverage in particular, ensures that Stickbug maintains a strong connection between environment and consumer while maximising the space, providing an essential traffic flow. The design style is adaptable to a wide variety of footprints and formats with a localised feel to all outlets. With a compact, low-cost kitchen requirement and rigidly scrutinised equipment acknowledges service levels are never compromised. Doug emphasises: “Our menu is prepared easily, quickly and without fryers, grease traps, or expensive fire suppression systems which helps considerably with the outlay.  The design of all locations optimises product exposure and a contemporary style that resonates with the customer and their aspirations.”

To stand out from the ‘clutter’ of high-street retailers is not easy, but the distinctly developed logo and trading statement stand out through simplicity and uniqueness and serve to reinforce
the Stickbug brand and offering.

A strong marketing department is on hand to support the network with promotional activities, marketing analysis, training and emerging technologies to deliver principled and sustainable business practices and assist franchisees in achieving their goals. Stickbug wants franchisees to succeed in business, and lifestyle, and maximise their opportunities by ensuring efficiencies and practicalities every step of the way and has meticulously designed the business model for the franchisee to succeed, not only personally, but to become a vital player in the growth of the Stickbug family.

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