yo sushi

Yo Sushi is lokking to grow its presence in the growing food-to-go market

Restaurant chain Yo Sushi is understood to be plotting a move into branded retail in the UK after buying a multi-platform Canadian contemporary this week.

The Mayfair Equity Partners-backed chain this week bought North American sushi brand Bento Sushi in a deal worth CAN$100m (£59m).

Bento is the region’s second-largest sushi brand and the largest in Canada, but the company also supplies 1,700 partner sites and sells branded goods through third-party retailers and other foodservice providers.

One insider source said Yo Sushi would look to ape Bento’s multi-platform model in its home market - echoing Pizza Express’ branded supermarket listings on top of its core business.

Bento also sells its branded goods through foodservice providers, which could be a model Yo follows to increase its presence in the growing food-to-go market.

A source close to the deal said: “There are numerous potential synergies to having a multi-format, multi-brand strategy in the Japanese casual dining sub-sector.

“Whilst it is early days in our assessment in how we will prioritise these, it is clear that there is a significant opportunity for Yo to compete in the grab-and-go, food retailing and food services space in the UK.”

Decisions are yet to be made over whether to port the Bento brand over to Europe or focus on launching Yo-labelled goods into new channels.

A statement said it would ‘create synergies and enable the continued growth of both businesses’.

It is understood Yo investor Mayfair drove the deal, having identified Bento as a strong investment opportunity and the strategic potential of a combination with Yo.

Bento had attempted to launch a Canadian IPO in June, but pulled its planned float after failing to drum up sufficient interest from institutional investors.

Mayfair bought a controlling interest in Yo! two years ago from Quilvest Private Equity and it has overseen like-for-like sales growth of 5% over the past 18 months.

Yo! CEO Robin 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 multichannel 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, CEO of Bento Sushi, added: “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.”