YO! Sushi snaps up Canadian sushi chain for £59m

UK-based casual dining chain, YO! Sushi has agreed to acquire Canada's Bento Sushi, for 100 million Canadian dollars (£59.1m) in a bid to expand in North America.

YO! is acquiring Bento with the backing of Mayfair Equity Partners, a London-based buyout firm, which acquired a majority stake in the restaurant operator in 2015 as part of a management buyout.

The deal represents an aggressive move to grow in the North American casual-dining market as both companies seek greater scale and access to new customers.

Bento also supplies sushi to grocery-store chains and institutional food service clients in North America. That distribution business gives YO! a new source of revenue that it can grow by introducing it to the European market.

Bento Sushi got its start in 1996 in downtown Toronto as a small takeout shop offering sushi, bento boxes and other ready-to-eat foods. A rapid expansion followed and continues to this day, transforming Bento Sushi into the largest sushi company in Canada with over 540 locations spread across all ten provinces and several states in the US.

At present, Bento Sushi employs over 1,400 highly trained sushi chefs and serves more than 20 million sushi portions every year.

Bento Sushi has recently launched the Bento Kitchen concept in select locations – a whole new product line focusing on traditional Japanese entrées such as bento boxes, yaki udon stir-frys, donburi rice bowls and ramen and udon noodle dishes made hot and fresh to order.