By Gavin Gibbon
Restaurant chain celebrating 20-year anniversary in 2020 reveals expansion plans
Dubai-based brand Sumo Sushi & Bento is set to celebrate its 20th anniversary in style – by doubling the number of outlets across the GCC.
Julianne Holt-Kailihiwa, CEO, told Arabian Business the company, which opened its first restaurant on Sheikh Zayed Road in 2000 and currently has 20 throughout the GCC, has struck a deal with Apparel Group to open a further 20.
“We’re effectively sold out for the region,” she said.
The expansion includes two restaurants already opened in the UAE and a further planned in the “next couple of months” at the new Festival Plaza complex alongside the new IKEA store.
They have opened two units in Qatar, one in Kuwait and work is underway to open one in Saudi Arabia.
Plans are also underway to take the Sumo Sushi & Bento brand global with outlets in India, the US, Mexico, Turkey and Cyprus.
Holt-Kailihiwa said: “We’ve had customers who have lived in Dubai, loved the dining experience and the delivery and they’ve gone back to their own country and wanted to make an investment; they loved the product so they become a franchisee.”
She said the initial plan, was to “bring fun, affordable Japanese cuisine to the region”.
And she revealed that there were just themselves and one other competitor when they originally launched in the affordable category, but now, “for every one of our outlets there’s maybe 12 to 15 competitors in our segment,” she said.
In describing the last 19 years, Holt-Kailihiwa said: “It was a great time (19 years ago), an exciting time. We’re kind of like Dubai. We’re a home grown brand and we grew up with Dubai in the last 19 years. There’s been lots of learning, lots of mistakes, lots of successes.“
Dubai, specifically, is a very crowded space in terms of F&B and it comes down to your unique selling position, being innovative. I’m not saying we’ve got it down to a science but we offer two new dishes every month, it’s something that we’re known for and we’re generally consistently trying to re-invent, not our core products but what customers are gravitating to.”
As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations, Sumo Sushi & Bento is launching a monthly new menu featuring favorites from the company’s previous two decades.