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Fresh Fortune

[ 0 ] Feb. 1, 2011 | SBO Editor

Conveyor-belt sushi eatery sends home $100 million a year!

Robin Rowland is the wizard who is bringing Asian flavor on a conveyor belt to towns and cities across the US. The concept is already popular in the United Kingdom and Rowland invites entrepreneurs to get in on the ground floor in this country. Sales for the busy franchise topped $100 million last year.

They called it the “British Invasion” when the Beatles first arrived in the United States more than 45 years ago. Now, a second invasion is set to launch, only this one has a different twist — one that’s cool, fun, healthy and tasty.

London-based YO!Sushi is coming to the U.S. YO!Sushi started the sushi revolution in London in 1997 by introducing the concept of a Japanese “kaiten” sushi bar that gave time-starved, hungry customers instant access to delicious, healthy sushi and other Japanese favorites via a conveyor belt traveling 3.1 inches per second that zigzagged around diners who love it.

YO!Sushi quickly became the original and most famous sushi brand in the United Kingdom that has since grown to more than 50 company-owned UK restaurants and more than a dozen franchised locations in Ireland, Russia and the Middle East combined.The biz is booming.

YO!Sushi serves up a healthy slice of urban Tokyo every day. While sushi is at the heart of the concept, guests can choose from more than 100 Japanese-inspired items including delicious soups, rice or noodle-based dishes, salads, tempuras and classic, hot Japanese dishes.

The company is entering the U.S. market through an area development program spearheaded by Franchise Dynamics, the nation’s first full-service franchise sales outsourcing firm, seeking experienced restaurant operators and multi-brand companies to operate five to 10 restaurants within designated markets. It’s a win-win.

U.S. expansion will focus initially on the East Coast, as well as other major markets such as Chicago, Dallas and Miami.

Projections call for development agreements for five restaurants to be in place by May 2011 and a cumulative total of 45 commitments signed by the end of 2013, including five to 10 locations open and operating in the U.S. Get It now.

Industry veteran Robin Rowland joined YO!Sushi in 1999 and was named CEO in 2000, when the company first began researching entry into the U.S. market. Even though the economy is struggling, Rowland said many factors including reasonable build-out cost, a flexible footprint, exceptional food margins and lack of direct competition should appeal to investors in the U.S. marketplace, which Rowland calls the “greatest restaurant market in the world.” Systemwide sales for the chain are $100 million a year. And it is growing.

“There are a lot of 7,000-square-foot boxes from some fantastic chains, but the investment is high and the return on investment has not been attractive in the last few years,” Rowland said.

“Entrepreneurs and multi-unit operators are looking at new concepts that are ‘lighter’ and lower on investment. Plus, Americans want healthier choices and we believe this is a great time to take advantage of the sushi sector, which although very popular, is very fragmented.”

A national survey in the UK named YO!Sushi the healthiest fast-casual dining chain, a full 13 percent higher than its closest competitor in health perception rankings. YO!Sushi is credited with catapulting Londoners into the 21st century by helping them take their first steps in discovering how tasty and healthy sushi can be. Rowland believes YO!Sushi can do the same in the U.S.

“There are literally thousands of mom-and-pop sushi restaurants in the U.S. and Asian flavors have always been a mainstay of dining out, as evidenced by successful brands such as P.F. Chang’s, Pei Wei and Noodles & Co.,” Rowland said.

“Americans love brands. Being able to try sushi and other Japanese classics for possibly the first time via a conveyor belt in a bright, fun environment combined with the strong brand identity of YO!Sushi is definitely a sweet spot for us.”

YO!Sushi’s managers and chefs refer to the model as the “easiest restaurant you’ll ever run.” Instead of worrying about ticket times, the conveyor belt is the main event, with food constantly prepped and placed on the conveyor to keep up with demand and customer choices. Kitchen equipment is light compared to average lines. Strong operational systems and a proprietary EPO system help manage production and control waste. Great concept!
“The kitchen is extremely systemized,” Rowland said. “While almost everything is prepared from scratch, there are four sections in the kitchen and only one is hot food. The key to success is to have a full conveyor belt at peak times with great variety. And once trained, the amount of dishes team members can produce in a short time is staggering. When you combine that with the easy controls of our back office system, it means our managers and operators spend less time ‘doing numbers’ and more time with their teams, and of course, our customers,” said the biz owner.

Quality and consistency are cornerstones of the successful YO!Sushi business model and the support that ensures that success will be replicated in the U.S. A YO!Sushi board member will be solely responsible for U.S. franchisee support and the same UK team dedicated to restaurant openings will oversee the first store opening of each U.S. franchisee.

Serving more than 3.5 million customers each year, YO!Sushi has proven that it is more than just sushi — it has become one of the coolest and most unique multi-unit casual dining concepts in the world.

“I think potential U.S. investors will see YO!Sushi as a ‘first to market’ opportunity with a mature franchise system,” Rowland said. “The U.S. is built on the premise of pioneering and go-getting individuals who are first to succeed in many opportunities. The success we have had in other diverse markets such as the Middle East and Russia should give evidence of YO!Sushi’s potential in the U.S.” •


YO!Sushi is seeking experienced restaurant operators and multi-brand companies to operate as area developers and open five to 10 restaurants within a defined territory. The estimated initial investment to open a franchise owner’s first restaurant ranges from $727,000 to $1.39 million. The franchise fee is $35,000 per restaurant with an ongoing royalty fee of five percent. Two percent of revenue must be spent on local advertising. A development fee of $17,500 is credited toward the initial franchise fee of each additional restaurant as it is opened and other requirements are fulfilled.

For more information, contact:

YO!SushiYO! Sushi World,
95 Farringdon Road, London,
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7841 0700;
in the U.S. 877/YO-SUSHI


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Category: Magazine, Start Your Own Business, Start Your Own Business Spring 2011