North America’s second-largest sushi brand, Bento Sushi, with more than 600 locations, is being acquired by United Kingdom-based Yo! Sushi for $78 million. According to The Wall Street Journal, the deal represents a bid for the restaurant to expand in North America as both companies look to scale across the continent.
Yo! Sushi, founded in 1997, started in the Soho quarter of London and has expanded to about 100 locations in Europe. Yo! also has restaurants in New York City and Boston.
Bento offers a quick-service format for the company to leverage, as well as a sizable, 600-unit footprint in the U.S. and Canada.
“We've successfully reinvigorated the business over the last two years to ensure the foundations are in place for long-term growth," Robin Rowland, CEO of Yo! Sushi, said in a statement. "This acquisition takes Yo! into the next stage of its development, and creates the first global multi-channel Japanese food purveyor."
The WSJ reports that Yo! has annual revenues of about $231.3 million. Mayfair Equity Partners is backing the transaction. The London-based buyout firm acquired a majority stake in Yo! in 2015, which brought back chief executive Rowland.
Bento started in 1998 and also supplies grocery outlets and institutional foodservice venues. It is known for its quick-service, small square-foot stores, kiosks, and other to-go locations. Bento is Canada’s largest sushi company and the second largest in North America, supplying some 1,700 sites. The company and its licensees employ more than 2,000 trained sushi chefs and serve more than 20 million portions each year. It was founded by chairman Ken Valvur in 1996 and has reported annual sales growth of 16 percent over the past three years. Valvur and chief executive Glenn Brown will join the Yo! board.
"This partnership presents Bento with an incredible opportunity to grow its platform," Brown said in a statement. "Yo! and Bento share a similar ethos and history, and we look forward to working with the Yo! team and taking advantage of opportunities to develop both brands."
Yo!, which has opened eight sites in the U.K. this year, as well as the group's first sites in Manhattan, Paris and Sydney, is credited as the first restaurant in the U.K. to deliver sushi via conveyor belt.