YO! sushi restaurants owner sold to Japanese food giant for £494m

13 June 2023 by
YO! sushi restaurants owner sold to Japanese food giant for £494m

The company behind sushi restaurant chain YO! has been sold to one of Japan's biggest food companies in a deal worth almost half a billion pounds.

Investor Mayfair Equity Partners has sold Snowfox Group to Zensho Holdings for $621m (£494m).

In the UK, Snowfox runs over 100 YO! sushi conveyor belt restaurants and kiosks and owns Taiko, which manufactures sushi for supermarkets including Waitrose and Sainsbury's.

The group is also behind Canada's Bento sushi chain, which trades from over 950 locations and operates and franchises more than 1,000 Snowfox sushi kiosks in the US.

Zensho claims to be the number one foodservice company in Japan by sales and its portfolio includes beef bowl restaurant Sukiya and the Chicken Rice Shop brand in Malaysia.

The deal will see Mayfair Equity Partners exit Snowfox eight years after it first invested in YO! in 2015.

The YO! chain, which introduced the Kaiten conveyor belt to the UK in 1997, closed 19 restaurants through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, it saw sales recover in 2021 and invested in opening more sushi kiosks in Tesco supermarkets.

Snowfox chief executive Richard Hodgson, who previously led PizzaExpress before joining YO! in 2017, will remain with the business and work with Zensho's senior management.

Hodgson said the deal was "the next natural step" for the business.

He added: "I am looking forward to being part of the next stage of the Snowfox growth story, and as part of Zensho, I am confident that we will be ideally placed within the large, attractive and highly competitive Japanese food category."

Waqqas Ahmad, partner at Mayfair Equity Partners, said: "The fact that Zensho, a leading Japanese food conglomerate, is welcoming Snowfox to their group reflects the quality of the Japanese food business Snowfox has built.

"As part of Zensho, Snowfox will be primed to reach more customers than ever before."

Terms of the deal are yet to be confirmed and it remains subject to customary closing conditions.

Image: N Innes/Shutterstock

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