London-based YO!Sushi has opened what the 60-unit company says will be the first of many locations in the United States.
Now operating in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, YO!Sushi seeks to expand primarily in shopping malls along the eastern seaboard. Alison Vickers, business development director, says the company has scouted locations in Philadelphia, northern Virginia and South Florida. Other U.S. target markets include Chicago, Dallas and Miami.
In 1997, YO!Sushi introduced the concept of a Japanese "kaiten" sushi bar that caters to on-the-go diners by providing instant access to sushi and other Japanese favorites via a conveyor belt that zigzags around them at a speed of 3.1 inches per second. Guests choose from selections on the belt, and traditional sushi condiments are available at every table, as is still or sparkling water. Servers deliver sodas, beer, wine and sake, and customers can also order hot or cold dishes. At the end of the meal, customers' empty dishes are counted and guests either pay their server or a cashier. Prices are fixed according to plate color – 6 different plate colors are used, with prices ranging from $2.20 to $6 each.
The 1,800-square-foot Union Station unit includes 50 seats around the conveyor belt (including 4 tables), plus 20 more on a patio. Key design features include angular, brightly colored ceiling rafts that hold 176 LED spotlights and a cedar paneled wall feature that supports 3 portholes, each containing 1 of the chain's iconic "lucky cats." U.K.-based designer Phillip Watts created the design theme and Chicago-based Aria Group Architects brought it to life in the D.C. unit.