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YO! Sushi

The first YO! Sushi restaurant opened in London in 1997 and immediately became the most innovative and famous sushi brand in the UK. Their conveyor belt, fast-casual restaurants now serve over five million customers a year in the UK and overseas.


The business expanded rapidly in the late 1990’s but suffered ‘growing pains’ in the post dot-com period when performance dipped in a number of high profile units and the business came under pressure from its bank.  Robin Rowland, who had been appointed CEO by founder and then-owner Simon Woodroffe, sought finance to support a buy-out and provide further funding for expansion.

The Big Idea

Although YO!’s performance had definitely suffered, we bought into management’s view that the business had successfully developed a number of formats for both shopping malls and leisure developments, as well as concessions in department stores and high footfall areas such as train stations and airports. The strategy for EBITDA growth was based on exiting the underperforming ‘tail’ and rolling out the proven formats. Additional investment was also required in people, in particular to focus on marketing and property selection and acquisition.

The Grand Plan

Our approach proved successful with the business growing from 14 outlets in 2003 to 47 outlets in 2008, including a franchise network in international markets.  The business had successfully proven its concept outside London and had a strong pipeline of potential new sites to fuel further expansion.  It was the dominant sushi operator in the UK.

The Bottom Line

The business grew from £12 million sales in 2003 to £36 million sales in 2008, when the company was sold.

YO! Sushi logo

Investment Summary

Date of investment:  August 2003
Deal status:  Realised
Date of realisation:  March 2008
For more information talk to: Neil Wallace

“Primary were terrific initial investors in YO! Sushi. YO! Sushi greatly benefited from their active support focusing the board on continual improvement of 5 retail disciplines of product, people, property, promotion and profit. A 6x+ investors return over the 4½ years investment was a team effort. Primary are a quality ‘value-add’ and engaging, fun team to have as your backers.”

Robin Rowland, CEO, YO! Sushi

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