Itsu has confirmed that it has signed a significant deal with international asset group Bridgepoint, which see it acquire “a meaningful minority stake” in the Asian-inspired food brand, enabling it to add a further 100 outlets to its estate over the next five years.

Rumours of the deal were reported on Friday (18 June), and follow comments by Itsu CEO Ganan to MCA earlier this month that market mapping had suggested the business had the potential to add another 150 sites in the UK.

He said that expansion would come through the opening of both company-owned and operated sites and franchising, with Itsu set to open its first two franchise units in the UK (in Leicester and Reading) later this year, through a new partnership with Pizza Hut Restaurants UK, as well as its first European site, within Brussels Airport, through HMS Host.

The addition of 100 new sites will create around 2,000 news jobs in the UK. They are also in addition to the deal the brand has already done with Pizza Hut Restaurants and other major franchise operators in the UK, France and Belgium.

Itsu founder Julian Metcalfe said: “We are thrilled to be teaming up with Bridgepoint again after our success together at Pret A Manger during the dynamic 2008-2018 era.

“We’ve spent months in lockdown working with them to ensure Itsu will be well-funded for long-term growth. Never before has enjoying healthy, nutritious food been so uppermost in customers minds.”

He said the business was “slowly getting back to pre-pandemic” footfall levels, and outside London was busier than it had been previously. “Very shortly we hope to re-open the remaining centrally located stores that have been closed since last September.”

Benoit Alteirac, partner of Bridgepoint said it saw a global opportunity for Itsu to expand.

“Itsu combines affordable, convenient, and fresh food with an outstanding operational model coupled with deep-rooted brand values,” he said. “We recognize their time is now and their ambition, goals and purpose are so relevant in this post pandemic era.”