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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 13th Jun 2023 - YO! owner the Snowfox Group acquired by Japanese firm Zensho in $621m deal
YO! owner the Snowfox Group acquired by Japanese firm Zensho in $621m deal: The Snowfox Group – the YO!, Bento, Panku and Taiko brands operator – has been acquired by Japanese foodservice company Zensho Holdings, in a deal valued at $621m (£494.5m). The deal sees Mayfair Equity Partners, which has backed YO! since 2015, and built Snowfox into a multi-channel, multi-format, international business, fully exit the company. The terms of transaction are to be confirmed and completion remains subject to customary closing conditions. Founded in 1982, Zensho is a leading Japanese food group and is the number one foodservice company in Japan by sales. The group said it is developing a wide range of food businesses and expanding globally with the mission of “providing safe and delicious food at affordable prices to people around the world”. Zensho operates its business under the corporate philosophy of “to take responsibility for the stability and development of human society and to eradicate hunger and poverty from the world to sustainably deliver safe and high-quality food to their customers as a food infrastructure”. The company operates a diverse portfolio of businesses in Japan, including the beef bowl restaurant Sukiya, the 100-yen sushi restaurant Hama-sushi, and the family restaurant Coco's, as well as retail and nursing care businesses. Outside of Japan, the company also operates Sukiya, Hama-sushi mainly in east Asia, Advanced Fresh Concepts (AFC) mainly in the US, and The Chicken Rice Shop (TCRS), which operates halal-certified chicken rice shops in Malaysia. After a period of successful growth and diversification in the UK, Mayfair identified, funded, and helped complete YO!'s first international transaction in 2017, where it acquired Bento. Following the Bento acquisition, YO! acquired Taiko, a leading supplier of sushi products to the supermarket sector, in 2018. The business then expanded into the US through a merger with Snowfox in 2019. Following these transactions and under the leadership of Richard Hodgson, the Snowfox Group was created in 2021. It currently operates approximately 3,000 chef-operated sushi kiosks and other restaurants in North America and the UK, as well as being a sushi manufacturer and wholesaler. The two businesses said that a combination of Zensho and Snowfox's capabilities represent “a highly complementary proposition”. They said: “Snowfox's diversified international offering will support Zensho's ambitions outside of its home market of Japan. Zensho will be able to bring its Japanese heritage and expertise to Snowfox's business, to the benefit of employees, franchisees, retailers, and end-customers alike.” Snowfox's leadership team, including Hodgson, will remain with the business to work closely with Zensho's senior management. Hodgson said: “This is an exciting moment for the Snowfox Group, and, having had seven successful years owned by Mayfair Equity Partners, this proposed transaction represents the next natural step for us as a business. I have been hugely impressed by Zensho during my recent meetings with it, and it shares our own ambition of providing the highest quality, most authentic Japanese food at the best possible value. I believe this is absolutely the right move. Zensho recognises the value of the Snowfox Group's highly attractive brands, our customer relationships, and our diversified international presence. Above all – it is testament to the quality, authenticity, and breadth of our Japanese food offer that a Japanese food business of Zensho's calibre wants us to join it. I am grateful to all of my colleagues for their hard work and support in building the Snowfox Group into what it is today, and I look forward to our continued journey together. I would also like to thank the team at Mayfair, which has been a hugely supportive owner. I am looking forward to being part of the next stage of the Snowfox growth story, and as part of Zensho, I am confident that we will be ideally placed within the large, attractive, and highly competitive Japanese food category.” Waqqas Ahmad, partner at Mayfair Equity Partners, said: “The fact that Zensho, a leading Japanese food conglomerate, is welcoming Snowfox to its group reflects the quality of the Japanese food business Snowfox has built. Richard and the whole Snowfox team have served customers exceptionally well over the last seven years, driven by a clear vision of continuous innovation and ensuring the highest quality products. It has been a pleasure to be their partner, providing specialist support to diversify their business and grow internationally. As part of Zensho, Snowfox will be primed to reach more customers than ever before.”

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