Sushi group YO! completes £500m sale to Japanese food giant

19 September 2023 by
Sushi group YO! completes £500m sale to Japanese food giant

The half a billion pound sale of the company behind sushi restaurant chain YO! to one of Japan's biggest food firms has completed.

Investor Mayfair Equity Partners has sold Snowfox Group to Zensho Holdings for $621m (£500m) in what is understood to be one of the largest consumer exits by a UK private equity firm in 2023.

The deal was first announced in June and has now been finalised.

Snowfox's chief executive Richard Hodgson, who previously led PizzaExpress before joining YO! in 2017, will remain with the company under Zensho's ownership.

Mayfair Equity Partners first invested in YO! in 2015 and has overseen a diversification of the business, launching supermarket kiosks alongside its sushi conveyor belt restaurants.

In 2017 it acquired Canada's Bento sushi chain, which trades from over 950 locations, and it bought Taiko, which manufactures sushi for supermarkets including Waitrose and Sainsbury's, in 2018.

YO! merged with Snowfox, one of its largest rival Japanese food operations in the US, in 2019, and the wider Snowfox Group was established in 2021.

Snowfox said its earnings rose 140% on pre-pandemic levels during the year to 27 November 2022. It also launched Snowfruit, a franchised fresh cut fruit and vegetable offer, in the US.

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

Hodgson said: "Following the great success and growth we have experienced over the past seven years under Mayfair's ownership, this transaction represents the next natural step to fulfil our near- and long-term strategic objectives."

Outside of Japan, Zensho also operates the Chicken Rice Shop brand in Malaysia and Advanced Fresh Concepts, mainly in the US.

Image: N Innes/Shutterstock

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