The UK sushi restaurant group, which is backed by Mayfair Equity Partners, has bought the Canadian bento chain, in a deal that valued it at CAN $100m (£59.2m).
With YO! Sushi’s international restaurant network across Europe, the Middle East and Australia, the move has created one of the largest sushi companies outside Japan. The combined businesses had sales of approximately £175m over the past 12 months.
Bento, founded in 1996, is a 600-strong chain that also supplies 1,700 partner sites, including kiosks and sushi bars in supermarkets, shopping centres, corporate dining facilities and schools across Canada and the US.
“The partnership presents Bento with an incredible opportunity to grow its platform,” says Glenn Brown, chief executive officer at Bento Sushi.
“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.”
Over the past 18 months YO! has reported a 5% like-for-like sales growth, during which time it has opened eight sites in the UK, as well as its first restaurants in Manhattan, Paris and Sydney.
“We’ve successfully reinvigorated our business over the last two years to ensure the foundations are in place for long-term growth,” says Robin Rowland, chief executive office of YO!
“Bento’s proposition and management team’s strong track record make it the ideal partner for YO! as we look to further grow our brand.”
To date, no major UK restaurant brand has had significant success in the US market. Pizza Express is the largest brand to date to attempt to build a presence stateside, but failed in 2002, with a reported cost of £700,000 to cover the closure of two restaurants.
Brands such as Wagamama and Carluccio’s have also attempted to crack the US, but with varying degrees of success. This summer Carluccio’s closed both of its sites in Washington, citing the competitive nature of the US dining market and lower than expected margins.
Simon Cope, global brand director for Wagamama, told BigHospitality last year that the company hoped to open “50 to 60 [US restaurants] in the next five years”, although at present the noodle restaurant group only operates five.
Smaller brands have also attempted to move into the US in recent years. Burger & Lobster now operates a New York restaurant and Hawksmoor will now open a steakhouse in Manhattan in 2019 following delays with the original plans.