London-based YO!Sushi is entering the U.S. market through an area development program spearheaded by full-service franchise sales outsourcing firm Franchise Dynamics. U.S. expansion will focus initially on the East Coast, as well as other major markets such as Chicago, Dallas and Miami.

Projections call for development agreements for five restaurants to be in place by May 2011 and a cumulative total of 45 commitments signed by the end of 2013, including five to 10 locations open and operating in the United States.

YO!Sushi got its start in London in 1997, and introduced there the concept of a Japanese “kaiten” sushi bar served via a conveyor belt traveling 3.1 inches per second that zig-zagged around diners.

YO!Sushi has grown to more than 50 company-owned restaurants in the United Kingdom and more than a dozen franchised locations in Ireland, Russia and the Middle East combined.

While sushi is at the heart of the concept, guests also can choose from more than 100 Japanese-inspired items including soups, rice or noodle-based dishes, salads, tempuras and classic, hot Japanese dishes.

Industry veteran Robin Rowland joined YO!Sushi in 1999 and was named CEO in 2000, when the company first began researching entry into the U.S. market.

“There are literally thousands of mom-and-pop sushi restaurants in the U.S. and Asian flavors have always been a mainstay of dining out, as evidenced by successful brands such as P.F. Chang’s, Pei Wei and Noodles & Co.,” Rowland said. “Americans love brands. Being able to try sushi and other Japanese classics for possibly the first time via a conveyor belt in a bright, fun environment combined with the strong brand identity of YO!Sushi is definitely a sweet spot for us.”

The concept serves more than 3.5 million customers each year.

“I think potential U.S. investors will see YO!Sushi as a “first to market” opportunity with a mature franchise system,” Rowland said. “The U.S. is built on the premise of pioneering and go-getting individuals who are first to succeed in many opportunities. The success we have had in other diverse markets such as the Middle East and Russia should give evidence of YO!Sushi’s potential in the U.S.”

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