Sushi chain Wasabi launches restructuring with ‘up to 12 stores at risk’

Sushi chain Wasabi has launched a restructuring plan which could see up to 12 stores shut after sales were hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sources told the PA news agency that a “handful of stores” could cease trading, with this potentially rising to “as many as twelve” depending on conversations with landlords.

It is the latest sushi retailer to pursue a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) restructuring process after rivals Itsu and Yo! announced similar proposals in recent weeks.

The company, which employs more than 1,500 and runs 51 sushi and bento shops across the UK, said it was “impacted profoundly” by lockdown measures introduced in March.

Wasabi, which sold a minority stake to investment firm Capdesia last year, said it will restructure its finances and operations, and receive fresh capital from its investors if the proposals are approved.

KPMG’s Will Wright and David Costley-Wood have been nominated to advise over the restructuring.

Henry Birts, chief executive officer of Wasabi, said: “Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, Wasabi had been performing strongly on the back of the investment and operational improvements we had made during 2019.

“However, the extraordinary impact of Covid-19 on trading has meant that we now need to take additional steps to address our fixed cost-base if we are to secure the long-term future of our business.

“In recent weeks, we have had constructive engagement with landlords regarding better alignment of the rents of certain sites in proportion with footfall and trading, and we will continue to work closely with them over the days ahead.

“We strongly believe that this turnaround programme will provide us with a stable platform upon which we can emerge from this difficult period as a healthy and sustainable business, for our staff, suppliers and loyal customers.”

Paul Berkovi, KPMG’s head of leisure restructuring, said: “With large numbers of city centre workers and tourists remaining at home, grab and go food retailers have been some of those businesses most significantly affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

“With the outlook remaining uncertain, Wasabi is taking decisive action to safeguard its future.”