It is a reflection of both the investment appetite for successful restaurant chains in the current climate and the esteem with which YO! Sushi is held that takeover speculation has followed the Japanese-inspired operator around all year long. Figures as high as £100m have been bandied about in the wake of reports that the company is keen to attract an investor that will get behind its plans to scale up in the US, where it recently opened only its second store but has ambitions on reaching 50 restaurants eventually.
Its current owner (at least at the time of going to print) is private equity firm Quilvest. During its seven-year association with the chain, YO! Sushi has expanded its UK presence and opened stores in Europe, the Middle East and North America. It currently operates 87 branches globally, with 74 of them in the UK, generates annual sales in excess of £70m and employs more than 1,500 people. One of those is Paul Reynolds, the company’s operational director and the first senior appointment that chief executive Vanessa Hall made after she was promoted to the position 18 months ago.
Paul brings an impressive track record to the business, working for chains such as Novus Leisure and Mitchells & Butlers during a 25-year career in the industry. That experience will be vital as the company embarks on further expansion activity and grows into territories where it spots room to introduce its much-loved Japanese ‘kaiten’ concept. YO! Sushi has become such an established fixture on the high street dining scene that it is easy to forget that the brand is almost 20 years old and was the first to bring a slice of urban Tokyo to the market by delivering food via a conveyor belt to customers. These days the structure of its kitchens and the reliability of the equipment it uses are arguably even more important than they were in those early days due to the six million visitors it now gets through its doors every year and the fact that its dishes are freshly prepared in-house on a daily basis.
“It is easy to forget that the brand is almost 20 years old and was the first to bring a slice of urban Tokyo to the market”