YO! Sushi has joined forces with one of the US’s largest operators and owners of franchised sushi kiosks in a deal that gives the combined group an enterprise value of $400m.
The deal with SnowFox, billed as a merger, will create one of the largest Japanese food companies outside Japan, with 1,400 kiosks, 2,295 locations for packaged products, 116 restaurants and seven central kitchens.
The expanded group includes Bento Sushi in the US and Taiko Foods in the UK, both of which YO! owns.
Mayfair Equity Partners, which linked with YO!’s management team as part of the 2015 management buyout, was behind the deal with SnowFox.
The merger creates a business with $425m sales, including franchisees’ sales.
Stacy Kwon, SnowFox’s president will become co-president of the group’s North American operations, alongside Bento Sushi chief executive Glenn Brown.
Both will report to Richard Hodgson, the chief executive of YO! who becomes group chief executive.
The enlarged business will partner with leading retailers across North America and the UK, including Kroger, Loblaws, Walmart, Sobeys Waitrose, Sam’s Club and Tesco.
YO! said it will continue to develop and diversify its offer in the UK as part of its mission to increase the availability and quality of Japanese food.
It recently opened a site in Ashford, Kent, with a new look kaiten belt. It plans to open a new flagship site in Westfield White City later in the summer, and it is piloting grab and go kiosks with Tesco.
The merged entity will have more than 3,000 employees, 2,500 chefs, and 50m customers a year.
Hodgson said: “We are delighted to be partnering with SnowFox given its high brand penetration, recognised product and service quality, as well as excellent industry relationships.
“Building on from the successful integration of Bento Sushi starting in 2017, YO! will look to replicate this approach with SnowFox as it continues to execute its diversification strategy.
“By expanding its geographical presence and offering, the expanded group will meet the untapped demand of consumers around the world.”
Stacy Kwon, president of SnowFox, said the US was one of the fastest growing sushi markets globally and could account for 1% of total US food retailer sales – worth about $10bn.
“This merger brings together YO!’s restaurant expertise, Bento’s company-owned and manufactured sushi expertise, and SnowFox’s franchising and retail expertise – all of which will allow us to better serve our retail partners’ every need.”