Itsu founder says sushi empire has been “completely decimated”

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Entrepreneur has strong words about how the pandemic was handled in the UK, but Julian Metcalfe is fighting on, betting on the return of office workers.

Julian Metcalfe, the founder of Itsu and Pret a Manger, told This is Money, that his sushi empire had been decimated by COVID-19.

In July, SalmonBusiness reported that the high street chain was working with advisory firm AlixPartners on its options, which could include carrying out a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

Talking to the publication, Metcalfe – who is worth GBP 215million – said that 35 of its 77 stores are still shut and a third of its staff are on furlough. The company has negotiated newly lowered rents.

Calling the risk of the virus “blown out of all proportion”, Metcalfe is betting on office workers coming back to the office so is investing “whatever it takes” (total investment was GBP 40 million to GBP 50million in the past three years). “And we’ll put in more – this is a really long game,” he added.

The founder said that Itsu now has a slimmed-down menu and that it is rolling out a “new generation of sushi robots”.

In May, SalmonBusiness reported that sales of sushi robots have gone through the roof because of COVID-19.

For its sushi, Itsu it selects “superior grade fresh salmon sashimi fillets from Scotland and the crystal clear waters of Norwegian fjords.”