kibo sushi

How Kibo became the McDonald's of sushi in Toronto

Kibo Sushi is fast approaching its 10th anniversary, and they've exploded to around 30 locations in the GTA, making the chain feel almost as ubiquitous as McDonald's or Starbucks.

It seems like more locations than ever are opening recently, and that's because while 10 locations were opened during Kibo's first five years in business, the other 20 were opened during the next five.

Founder and CEO Bo Seo opened the first location in Cabbagetown in 2012, which still stands today. By 2013, he had opened a third location on St. Clair West.

His 10th location opened at Ossington and College around 2017, Seo taking the leadership role in opening all of them himself.

At that point, he decided he had to open a central office to grow the company more independently from him, selling franchises so he didn't have to run them all himself.

"I want to have life and business together," Seo tells blogTO. "If everybody owns this restaurant, then I don't have to take care of all the customers myself."

Typically, a chef or manager who's been working at a Kibo location for two or three years typically has the opportunity to strike out on their own and open a new franchise.

For example, a team of 10 at the Liberty Village location of Kibo became a team of six when three people opened Kibo's first Oakville store, presided over by the former Liberty Village manager who had moved to Oakville.

The younger generation of workers at Kibo moving around and staying in touch has a beneficial effect on the growth of the company: people who have moved to places like New Brunswick and Quebec have contacted Kibo wanting to open their own locations, and Seo is all for it.

There are now 29 locations of Kibo in the GTA and two in Calgary. Seo's plan is to eventually set up a model to spread out across North America and the United States. He says his goal is to have a Kibo in every "big city."

In the meantime, Kibo is still steadily increasing its numbers within the GTA, planning to open three more stores next year already. One should be at Hillcrest Mall and another should be at Mississauga Square One's Food District.

The one Seo is especially excited about will be in Union Station and has been three years in the making due to delays. Under construction now, he's hoping it'll open in April.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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