YO! Sushi creates world’s largest sushi chain with £59m takeover deal

YO! Sushi Bluewater

YO! Sushi has given its international growth plans a massive boost by agreeing a £59m deal to take over North America’s second largest sushi brand Bento Sushi.

Bosses at the chain said the merger would create a “global multi-channel and multi-brand sushi platform” with annualised sales of £175m.

The acquisition values Bento at CAN $100m (£58.9m) and has been facilitated by Mayfair Equity Partners, who partnered with the YO! management team as part of a management buyout in 2015.

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Bento was founded in Toronto in 1996 by Ken Valvur and is the second largest sushi brand in North America, and the largest in Canada, trading from more than 600 locations, while supplying sushi to a further 1,700 partner sites. Crucially it will give YO! Sushi an established footprint in the US market.

Bento operates across a range of formats which complement YO!’s existing proposition. These include quick service restaurants, on-site kiosks in supermarkets and other food service locations, and a number of production facilities which supply sushi to grocery and institutional food service clients across North America.

The business has achieved strong growth, delivering compound annual sales growth of 16% in the last three years.

Bento and its licensees employ over 2,000 highly trained sushi chefs and serve more than 20 million sushi portions every year.

Bento’s success has been driven by Valvur and CEO Glenn Browny, and as part of the deal they join the Board of YO! and become “significant” shareholders in the combined group.

With YO!’s international restaurant network across Europe, the Middle East and Australia, the combined business becomes one of the largest sushi companies outside Japan.

Sushi rolls

The acquisition of Bento comes after two transformational years for YO!, in which Mayfair Equity Partners bought into the business and Robin Rowland returned to the role of CEO.

Following a renewed focus on the brand, product, and people, including the appointment of several senior team hires, the business has seen like-for-like sales growth of +5% over the past 18 months.

Eight new sites opened in the UK this year, as well as the group’s first sites in Manhattan, Paris and Sydney.

Mr Rowland said: “We’ve successfully reinvigorated the business over the last two years to ensure the foundations are in place for long-term growth. This acquisition takes YO! into the next stage of its development, and creates the first global multi-channel Japanese food purveyor. Bento’s proposition and its management team’s strong track record make it the ideal partner for YO! as we look to further grow our brand.”

Glenn Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Bento Sushi, stated: “This partnership presents Bento with an incredible opportunity to grow its platform. YO! and Bento share a similar ethos and history, and we look forward to working with the YO! team and taking advantage of opportunities to develop both brands.”

Ken Valvur, Chairman of Bento Sushi, added: “The combination of YO! and Bento will further enhance our group’s ability to be the partner of choice for grocery and institutional food service providers throughout our enlarged operating geography, and creates exciting opportunities for our valued team members on both sides of the Atlantic.”

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