The Lowdown: YO! Sushi's conveyor belt-less restaurant

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

YO Sushi conveyor belt-less restaurant

Related tags: Sushi, Restaurant, Casual dining

In an apparent bid to broaden the brand’s appeal, YO! Sushi is set to open its first restaurant this summer without a ‘kaiten’ conveyor belt.

Sushi that isn’t served from a conveyor belt? YO! must be joking
It’s no joke. With more than 20 years of service and close to 100 restaurants currently operating in the UK and beyond, the British-based Japanese brand is to launch a site without the iconic conveyor belt that has become synonymous with the YO! Sushi name.

Why the change? Presumably this is some sort of belt-tightening exercise…
It’s part of a company rebrand, with CEO Richard Hodgson telling The Times that he considers it to be “probably the biggest thing to happen to YO! since it was founded”. The chain is also apparently planning on removing the belt from its Manchester Piccadilly station location.

What does this mean for the future of YO! Sushi?
According to The Times article, stripping out the belt in those locations will enable the chain to highlight that it is no longer only a sushi concept. The move is part of a push towards a more “experiential strategy” that is less suited to the conveyor belt model, with the group looking to develop different offers within its brand that will suit a variety of sites.

Sounds like it could be a raw deal for those who love the brand. What changes can we expect?
Details are still scarce, but when Hodgson came on board in 2017 he said would look to “capitalise on the new multi-channel, multi-brand format”. In April last year the company bought Waitrose sushi supplier Taiko Foods​ for an undisclosed sum, and then in October it announced that it had signed an agreement with Tesco to open YO! To Go counters in two of its UK stores. It also invested heavily in North America, acquiring the continent’s second biggest sushi brand Bento Sushi for £59.2m in 2017.

Anything else?
Yes, don’t forget that it’s just YO! now. The ‘Sushi’ is gradually being dropped from the brand’s name as part of a new visual identity that was first revealed back in 2016. Whether that decision will correlate with the changes we can expect to see on the menu, remains to be seen.

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