Dubai: A home-grown sushi chain is heading West. Sumo Sushi & Bento which launched in the UAE in 2000 is confirming plans for a US presence via franchising.

“Sumo thrives in markets where there is a misconception about sushi being an expensive dining option — we have always positioned ourselves as ‘family affordable’,” said Darami Coulter, Global Marketing and Communication Manager.

“When we do our annual competitive market analysis, we are mid-tier pricing both for our customers and franchisees. The ‘pop-up concept’ arose to give early interest franchisees a taste of our ‘dine-in’ experience. Once they’ve experienced the ‘sumo way’ of serving Japanese food, we hope the rest is just a numbers and investment conversation — which is equally as compelling.

“Our franchise fees and build-out requirements are affordable as we hope to attract other families of entrepreneurs to join our network.

But isn’t taking sushi to the US a bit of a stretch? Coulter doesn’t see it that way.

“The great advantage we have in the US market is that consumers already know sushi and familiar with the lifestyle benefits it provides,” Coulter added. “As such, we don’t face some of the same challenges that we might in emerging markets as far as introducing the concept into the marketplace.

“Our priority is brand consistency and familiarity in major cities as well as second–tier cities. We have several potential franchisees already wanting to bring this concept to their markets. We are in various stages of the due diligence and seeking new conversations across the Continent.”

In the UAE, the chain operates 10 locations and is adding two more. It has two in Bahrain and secured a presence in Oman via a franchise deal. Three more are due to open there.

“Our focus is now on Saudi Arabia, India, South Africa and the USA,” said Coulter. “Our global headquarters will remain in Dubai which is the perfect location to assist our expansion into Africa and Asia.”