Itsu, the Japanese sushi bar chain, is on course to operate 35 sites across London by the end of the year. The company, which was co-founded by Julian Metcalfe and Clive Schlee at the end of 1996, currently operates 29 sites under its smaller fast casual format and two restaurants in Chelsea and Notting Hill. It is set to open further sites under the smaller format in Great Eastern Street and in the N1 Centre in Islington over the next month, with a further two openings planned before Christmas. The chain, which is led by Gerard Loughran, plans to take its estate past the 40 mark by the middle of next year, it hopes to open 10-12 sites in 2012, including the launch of its first outlet outside the capital, with UK shopping centres possible targets. All the new openings are expected to be under the group’s smaller, fast casual format. It is also thought to be working on joint venture vehicles to expand the chain into Paris and another overseas territory. Earlier this year, it reported a pre-tax loss for the year to 31 December 2010, on the back of a “rapid shop-opening programme” which saw the group increase its estate by 30%.