July 30, 2021

Sushi group YO! to change name as US arm's growth paves way for IPO

June 14, 2021

The owner of the sushi restaurant chain YO! is changing its name to reflect the rapid growth of its US operations as it weighs plans for a stock market listing.

Sky News understands that the group best-known in Britain for its sushi conveyor belts has appointed bankers at Numis to advise on its strategic options.

The company has also decided to change its corporate name to The Snowfox Group, reflecting the growing dominance of its American operations, which trade under that brand at hundreds of grocery store counters.

Snowfox is majority-owned by Mayfair Equity Partners, the London-based private equity firm which has also backed businesses including OVO Energy.

The group has established itself as the leading multinational Japanese food business, selling more than 60m trays of sushi annually.

It also operates in Canada, and trades under two other brands: Taiko and Bento!

People close to the company said it was growing at double the rate of the wider market, and now supplies retailers such as Tesco and Waitrose in the UK, and Kroger and Loblaws in North America.

It distributes fresh pre-packaged Japanese food to more than 3,700 food-service and grocery outlets.

By contrast, Snowfox now operates only 65 restaurants, having cut hundreds of jobs and closed a significant number of sites last year as part of a restructuring to keep it afloat.

A potential flotation of the business, which would take place in London despite the growing share of revenues generated by its US arm, underlines the rapid nature of its turnaround.

The company has also appointed the former Argos chief John Walden as chairman, while former Whitbread finance director Chris Rogers has also joined the group's board.

It is run by chief executive Richard Hodgson, a former Asda and PizzaExpress executive.

In its UK operations, Snowfox has devised a contactless format where customers can order remotely and have food delivered to them on YO!'s sushi conveyor belts.

Since its initial investment in YO! in 2015, Mayfair has helped to orchestrate the takeover of Canada's Bento Sushi and a merger with SnowFox in the US last year.

Snowfox will retain the YO! name for its restaurants and food-to-go operations.

A Snowfox spokesman declined to comment.

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