Mayfair exits Snowfox Group in $621m deal

Mayfair Equity Partners created the Snowfox Group in 2021, having grown it from a 2015 investment in British sushi brand YO!.

Mayfair Equity Partners has sold its ownership stake in Japanese food business The Snowfox Group to Zensho, a Japanese food service company based in Tokyo.

The deal is valued at $621 million and will see Mayfair fully exit its stake in Snowfox, but the company’s leadership team and CEO Richard Hodgson will remain with the business.

Mayfair first invested in London-headquartered Japanese fast casual restaurant group YO! in 2015, after which the asset manager led the company’s 2017 acquisition of Bento, which was founded in Canada in 1996.

YO! then acquired Taiko Foods in 2018, which is a British supplier of sushi and Asian food-to-go to retailers including Waitrose and Costco. The three businesses then merged with Snowfox in 2019, which at the time was the third-largest sushi kiosk business in the US, according to Mayfair – the Snowfox Group was subsequently created in 2021.

“The fact that Zensho, a leading Japanese food conglomerate, is welcoming Snowfox to their group reflects the quality of the Japanese food business Snowfox has built,” said Mayfair partner Waqqas Ahmad.

Zensho was founded in 1982 and is the largest food service business in Japan by sales, according to Mayfair. It is executing an expansion strategy.

The company operates a diverse portfolio of businesses in Japan, including the beef bowl restaurant Sukiya, the 100-yen sushi restaurant Hama-sushi, and the family restaurant Coco’s, as well as retail and nursing care businesses, said a statement from Mayfair.

“This is an exciting moment for the Snowfox Group, and, having had seven successful years owned by Mayfair Equity Partners, this proposed transaction represents the next natural step for us as a business,” said Snowfox CEO Richard Hodgson.

“I have been hugely impressed by Zensho during my recent meetings with them, and they share our own ambition of providing the highest quality, most authentic Japanese food at the best possible value.

“I believe this is absolutely the right move. Zensho recognises the value of the Snowfox Group’s highly attractive brands, our customer relationships, and our diversified international presence. Above all – it is testament to the quality, authenticity and breadth of our Japanese food offer that a Japanese food business of Zensho’s calibre wants us to join them.”

Mayfair Equity Partners has more than $2 billion in assets under management in its core areas of technology and consumer businesses.