YO!Sushi, a sushi brand based in the United Kingdom, has announced its first franchisee in the U.S. granting the rights to open 10 restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic corridor between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. The Sushi Company of North America, led by Richard Pawlowski, will open the first location in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station in early 2012.

"We have had many approaches from all sorts of companies in the U.S. over the years, but have held out for an outstanding partner with the operational and financial capability to grow at a pace," said Robin Rowland, YO!Sushi's CEO. "We are also in discussions with several other highly qualified franchise partners for other U.S. territories."

YO!Sushi first opened in London in 1997 and introduced the concept of a Japanese "kaiten" sushi bar that gave on-the-go customers instant access to sushi rolls, sashimi, Asian-inspired salads and a large variety of classic Japanese dishes on color/price-coded dishes via a sleek, snaking conveyor belt.

Pawlowski's companies own 36 franchised fast casual restaurants along the Eastern seaboard (11 Qdoba Mexican Grills, 13 Cosi's and 12 Bugaboo Creek Steak Houses). 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 subsequently oversaw 14 restaurants as operations manager.

"We are thrilled to be the first YO!Sushi franchisee in the United States. The first time I ever tried sushi it was from YO!Sushi in London and I really loved the food," Pawlowski said. "I'm confident that the YO!Sushi brand will take off in D.C. and in the rest of the U.S."

YO!Sushi operates more than 56 company-owned restaurants in the U.K., as well as more than a dozen franchised locations in Ireland, Portugal and the Middle East. The company is focused on the East Coast and other major markets such as Chicago, Dallas and Miami for initial U.S. expansion.

Read more on franchising and growth.

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