Q&A: Does Wasabi Franchise in the UK?

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wasabi franchise

Over the last decade, the British public’s love for Japanese food, particularly sushi, has surged in popularity massively. One of the leading fast food chains serving up this cuisine in the UK is Wasabi. But is it possible to start your own Wasabi franchise?


The Wasabi brand was born in 2003 with the opening of its first branch in Embankment, London. It was founded in Camden by Dong Hyun Kim, a Korean entrepreneur and fresh food market trader. Kim shared his love of fresh, authentic, handmade Japanese sushi and bento with the people of London, and they couldn’t get enough of it! Today, we explore whether or not Wasabi franchises in the UK.

When you step foot into a Wasabi, you can look forward to dining in a clean, bright, modern Japanese-style restaurant. The chain developed new lunchtime varieties of sashimi, sushi and California rolls that were an immediate success with Londoners on their lunch break, who were provided with a fresh and healthy alternative to the bog-standard sandwich. There are currently 26 Wasabis in central London and a further 29 across the rest of London and other major UK cities including Leeds, Birmingham and Cambridge. There are also five in New York.


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History of Wasabi

All it took was the opportunity to taste quality sushi without breaking the bank. Kim’s innovative idea was “to be the first outlet in the UK that would sell individually wrapped pieces of sushi, offering customers a beautifully wide choice and the chance to truly experiment with the fresh delights of Japanese cuisine”.

With welcoming staff and modern restaurant spaces, Wasabi is the pinnacle of contemporary convenience food. But Wasabi’s authenticity and quality will not get lost in the process of providing food fast and vows to continue to deliver a flavoursome and affordable eating experience.

Does Wasabi franchise in the UK?

Unfortunately, Wasabi hasn’t adopted the franchise model for its UK expansion. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other Japanese restaurant franchises looking for passionate entrepreneurs. We’ll explore some of these later on in the article.

How to get involved with Wasabi

If you’re eager to be part of the Wasabi brand and happy to put your franchising dreams to one side for the moment, you might consider becoming a branch manager.

Wasabi is on the hunt for people with a hands-on approach to work who can fulfil business requirements professionally and set an example to work to the highest possible standard. If this sounds like you, check out Wasabi’s website here.

The Japanese food market in the UK

Japanese cuisine has become a firm favourite for many of us Brits. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of Japanese restaurants in the UK increased by 67 percent, outpacing their Chinese and Thai equivalents. Also, sushi chain Itsu’s sales doubled in the five years leading up to 2017.

We clearly can’t get enough of Japanese food. With sushi becoming a common sight in supermarket fridges and with the increased production and variation of Japanese ready meals, the rise in demand for Japanese food has evidently also been mirrored in our shopping habits, as well our eating out preferences.

Similar franchise opportunities

As promised, we’ll now take a closer look at our top four picks for Japanese restaurant opportunities in the UK.

1. YO! Sushi

Launched in 1997, YO! Sushi is the biggest sushi restaurant franchise in the UK. The franchise network comprises approximately 100 restaurants across the globe, with half of these being operated by franchisees.

  • Becoming a YO! Sushi franchisee: Being passionate about Japanese cuisine is a must if you want to be accepted onto the franchise programme. Having previous experience in the restaurant sector isn’t a requirement, yet it is looked on fondly. Learn more and register your interest here.

  • How much you need to invest: To open a single store you need to make a capital investment of £250,000 - £550,000. For a multi-site operation, you’ll need to have up to £1 million to open five units in five years.
  • What you get for your investment: In return, you will take part in training workshops, receive on-site visits and have invaluable support throughout the process.

ISO Sushi is a Japanese Sushi takeaway brand that offers traditional cuisine that is prepared using the freshest and finest ingredients. The brand even offers the tasty sushi dishes as a home delivery. It prides itself on using only the most premium ingredients, exceptional customer service, great value for money and a unique taste that keeps you coming back for more.

  • Becoming an ISO Sushi, Wok & Grill franchisee: The chain already has outlets in London, Wolverhampton and Kent, but it’s actively looking for new franchises up and down the UK and in Ireland. You can learn more about the opportunity and express your interest on the company’s website here.

  • How much you need to invest: There is a franchise fee of £10,000, but additional working capital will be needed to get the business up and running. On top of this, potential franchisees will need to pay a monthly five percent royalty fee and one percent marketing fee.
  • What you get for your investment: ISO Sushi supports franchisees in running their own business, whilst adhering to its branding and ethos. The franchising team offers invaluable support and advice for running a successful branch, including the initial training and the orientation and induction programme that lasts six months. You are then given the freedom to hit the ground running and manage your sushi restaurant franchise in your own way.

Stong national presence There are currently 26 Wasabis in central London and a further 29 across the rest of London and other major UK cities

3. Marugame Udon

This Japanese food franchise’s primary offering is its fresh udon, which are made on site. As well as serving the popular thick wheat flour noodles, it also serves omusubi rice balls, tempura and many other traditional dishes in a canteen-style environment. Customers can help themselves to these delicacies just as they would in a busy restaurant in Tokyo.

The efficient service means that orders can be served in as little as 30 seconds and, therefore, up to 256 customers per hour can enjoy a delicious meal. Having already launched more than 1,000 restaurants in Japan, South-East Asia, Australia and in California in the US, Marugame Udon now has its sights on the UK, meaning that business-minded British entrepreneurs have the opportunity to help the brand’s expansion.

  • Becoming a Marugame Udon franchisee: The Japanese restaurant franchise is looking for area development franchisees who are prepared to open at least five locations. It asks that candidates are business-minded and eager to play a key part in the brand’s growth. To learn more and register your interest, click here.
  • How much you need to invest: In order to become a Marugame Udon franchisee, you need to make a minimum investment of £250,000 and a total investment of £500,000.
  • What you get for your investment: You’ll be designated your own exclusive territory and granted access to the comprehensive training programme. Marugame Udon is completely dedicated to brand development, so it is constantly updating the operations manual, promotional materials and website.

4. Wok to Walk

You’ve probably seen Wok To Walk’s black and orange logo on the high street somewhere. Ever wondered if you could own your own? Well, read on to find out more about the exciting franchise opportunity.

There are currently over 85 Wok To Walk stores giving customers their Asian food fix and taking the food service industry by storm.

  • Becoming a Wok To Walk franchisee: The franchise opportunity is flexible. You can open a flagship store or a hole-in-the-wall spot, it’s up to you! It’s the versatile business model that attracts all types of customers. Wok To Walk is looking for entrepreneurs who share its ambitious expansion plans. Click here to learn more and sign up.
  • How much you need to invest: Restaurant start-up costs can vary, but you’re looking at around £100,000 for the minimum investment cost.
  • What you get for your investment: As well as operating under a globally recognised brand name, you will benefit from a tried and tested training programme. The HQ team works with franchisees and provides bespoke consultancy services and support.

Can’t start a Wasabi franchise? No problem

The UK’s adoration for sushi is clear to see in our eating out and shopping preferences. Although it isn’t possible to start your own Wasabi franchise, there are lots of other Japanese restaurant franchises in the UK. We’ve discussed four today, but we regularly update our franchise directory, so it’s worth checking back to see if any more join.

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