The Japanese food business is to remove the conveyor belt from its site in Manchester Piccadilly station and convert it to an eponymous grab and go concept early next month.
It will mainly serve trays of sushi from a fridge, as well as hot food such as chicken katsu curry and yakisoba noodles.
There will be a small number of seats, but it will be geared towards takeaway customers and see YO! look to compete with the likes of Wasabi and Itsu.
YO! CEO Richard Hodgson, who ran PizzaExpress for four years until 2017, told BigHospitality there was potential for the group to become a “Japanese version of Leon”.
“We’re taking the belt out because you don’t need somewhere you can sit down leisurely at a station, people don’t arrive two hours before a train like at the airport,” says Hodgson.
“It’s a good location and the site already trades well, so we’ll see if the new concept does better there. If it does it will give me the confidence to do more.”
A second site under the concept is already being lined up to open in Bath in February, just over a year after YO! closed its conveyor belt restaurant in the city.
YO! has sought to diversify its portfolio away from its traditional UK restaurants in the last few years, dropping the ‘sushi’ moniker from its name and moving in to retail.
It is now one of the largest sushi companies outside Japan following its acquisition of Canada’s Bento Sushi for £59.2m in 2017, Waitrose supplier Taiko Foods in 2018 and merger with US sushi kiosk business Snowfox this year.
In September it launched two YO! Kitchen restaurants in London and Dublin, ditching the belt to focus on a wider Japanese-inspired menu with table service.
Sixteen YO! sushi kiosks have opened in Tesco supermarkets this year, and the brand launched a small range of fridge items into select Sainsbury’s convenience stores in central London earlier this month.
Branded sauces have been introduced into retail, and a range of crisps, snacks and ready meals is set to follow.
Hodgson says YO! has also run a trial partnership with David Lloyd fitness clubs, offering its sushi in fridges, which he hopes will extend to all its gyms across the UK.
YO! was founded in 1997 and has been backed by private equity firm Mayfair Equity Partners since 2015.