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Japanese sushi chain Sushiro aims to 'take on McDonald's' on burger giant's home turf

This photo shows sushi from the Sushiro conveyor-belt sushi restaurant chain. (Photo Courtesy of Food & Life Companies Ltd.)
Koichi Mizutome, president of Food & Life Companies Ltd., is interviewed in the city of Suita, Osaka Prefecture, on Feb. 22, 2022. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)

SUITA, Osaka -- Sushiro is the largest conveyor-belt sushi restaurant chain in Japan, but the president of the firm that runs it is shooting for more: to "take on McDonald's in the United States, and make the restaurant business a core economic sector for Japan."

    Sushiro operator Food & Life Companies Ltd.'s President Koichi Mizutome, 54, told the Mainichi Shimbun that the company is aiming for consolidated sales of 1 trillion yen (about $8.43 billion) by around 2030. That would be more than quadruple its sales of 240.8 billion yen (about $2.03 billion) for the fiscal year ending in September 2021, for a net profit of 13.1 billion yen (about $110 million) -- both record highs.

    Food & Life's sales have grown steadily over its founding in 1984. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, it has been able to meet demand by making moves such as opening take-out specialty stores. Furthermore, as of the end of 2021, the company had opened 64 Sushiro restaurants in Asia including South Korea and Taiwan, on top of the 626 it runs in Japan.

    The firm also runs food services company Kyotaru, acquired from beef bowl chain operator Yoshinoya Holdings Co. in April 2021, and with it Kaitenzushi Misaki, a conveyor-belt sushi chain operated by Kyotaru. The medium-term business plan announced by Food & Life in November 2021 set a target of 420 billion yen (about $3.54 billion) in sales for the fiscal year ending September 2024.

    Mizutome said the expansion of Sushiro's overseas outlets is part of its growth strategy. "Sushi is a food accepted all over the world. Overseas stores have higher sales and profits per store (than domestic branches)," he explained.

    "If we can increase the number of overseas outlets to 700, about the same as in Japan, we can scale up our sales to 300 billion yen (about $2.53 billion) or 400 billion yen (about $3.37 billion) from overseas alone," Mizutome added.

    Zensho Holdings Co., which runs the Sukiya beef bowl chain, is currently tops in the Japanese food services market, with 595 billion yen (about $5.02 billion) in sales for the fiscal year ended March 2021, followed by McDonald's Holdings Company (Japan), with 317.6 billion yen (about $2.68 billion) for the fiscal year ended December 2021.

    (Japanese original by Aya Iguchi and Tsuyoshi Kosaka, Osaka Business News Department)

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