United Kingdom-based YO!Sushi opened its first United States restaurant Wednesday, July 25 at the main metro entrance in Union Station in Washington, D.C. This is the first of at least 10 restaurants to come to the mid-Atlantic corridor between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. The owner is The Sushi Company of North America, which is led by Richard Pawlowski.
Pawlowski’s companies own 37 restaurants along the Eastern seaboard: 12 Qdoba Mexican Grills in D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia, 13 Cosis in D.C., and 12 Bugaboo Creek Steak Houses from Maryland to Maine. Pawlowski, who holds a master’s degree in engineering from Oxford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, got his start in the U.S. job market working for Bain & Company. In this new venture, Pawlowski has teamed up with Darren Wightman, who will serve as operating partner for YO!Sushi. Wightman was formerly the executive chef for YO!Sushi in the U.K. and oversaw the development and operation of 14 stores as operations manager.
“We are thrilled to be the first to bring this great concept to the United States,” Pawlowski said. “We think Americans will really enjoy YO!Sushi, and it will fit in well in Washington, D.C. We look forward to continuing to expand throughout the mid-Atlantic corridor.”
YO!Sushi started the sushi revolution in the U.K. 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 zig-zagged around diners.
“We have had a great deal of success in the U.K. and around the globe so we are confident that YO!Sushi will be popular in the U.S. as well,” said Alison Vickers, business development director. “The conveyor belt makes the concept unique and customers will really enjoy the chance to pick their dishes off the rotating belt.”
By 2001 it was the UK’s market leader in conveyor-belt sushi. YO!Sushi was the first UK restaurant chain to open in Dubai in 2003 and is now the Japanese market leader of both conveyor and non-conveyor restaurants.
YO!Sushi serves sushi rolls, sashimi, Asian-inspired salads and a large variety of classic, hot Japanese dishes on color/price-coded dishes via a sleek, snaking conveyor belt. YO!Sushi operates more than 60 company-owned restaurants in the U.K., as well as more than a dozen franchised locations in Ireland, the Middle East and the Oslo Airport in Norway.
YO!Sushi is searching for experienced multi unit franchisees similar to Pawlowski/Wightman’s profile. YO! Sushi anticipates five to 10 locations open and operating in the U.S. by the end of 2013. The company is focused on the East Coast and other major markets like Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Philadelphia for initial U.S. expansion. Ideal locations include high-visibility areas with strong foot traffic, including urban areas, suburban lifestyle centers and college towns.