The stereotypical mom and pop sushi restaurant is dimly lit and darkly paneled. YO!Sushi is not a stereotypical mom and pop sushi restaurant. Brightly lit and colorfully decorated with reds, oranges, and warm cedar, the successful U.K. restaurant chain, which opened its first U.S. location inside Washington, D.C.’s bustling Union Station in July, is hoping its poppy aesthetic will upend expectations and attract diners.
The restaurant’s layout likewise defies the standard. An open kitchen manned by four or five chefs is ringed by booths and counters, which are all serviced by a conveyor belt moving 3.1 inches per second. This helps patrons set the pace and duration of their dining experience.
“You can be done in 10 minutes, or you can stay for an hour,” says Alison Vickers, YO!Sushi’s director of business development.
The conveyor belt carries constantly refreshed color-coded plates implanted with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips. These tracking devices ensure that nothing is in circulation for more than an hour. After 60 minutes, a robotic arm automatically picks off uneaten plates.
Clean, colorful, and eye-catching presentations are key. “If it looks good, you’re going to take it when it goes by,” Vickers says.
All of these factors should prove to be big selling points for the fast-casual chain, says David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurant Consultants.
“When you go into a restaurant, it’s not just about satisfying the need to eat,” he says. “It needs to be fun and entertaining. YO!Sushi came up with something unique, so I think people will like it.”