The tycoon behind Pret A Manger plans an IPO of his latest health food chain to fund major U.S. expansion drive

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A logo is pictured on a sign outside an ITSU Asian-food inspired restaurant in central London

Julian Metcalfe, a co-founder of popular coffee and sandwich chain Pret A Manger, will seek a stock market listing to fund 1,000 new U.S. stores of his Itsu chain.

The millionaire tycoon, who is thought to have made a personal £215 million ($280million) fortune from the sale of Pret, told MarketWatch: “We will float Itsu, as we have to, for it to grow to 1,000 stores over the next few years.”

Read: Pret A Manger to join Peet’s, Dr Pepper, Snapple in JAB’s stable of brands

There are already 75 European outlets of the low-cost and low-calorie chain that sells hot and cold Japanese and Korean food for customers to either eat-in or take away.

It was started 15 years ago by Metcalfe, who has a 54% stake in the business – other investors include Luxembourg-based Ambrosia Investments.

The first American Itsu is already open in New York and construction for the second, on Wall Street, will start in the summer.

Metcalfe said: “Forget Pret, this is the next big thing. When you travel in Japan food is so nutritious it’s glorious. They are so far ahead I’ve always been inspired with what they eat.

“We have a 45% profit margin so it has fast food margins which is rare. But 1,000 stores is not going to happen without a partner.”

Metcalfe is in talks with franchise partners and is open to selling further stakes in the business to help it scale.

“Talks are at an early stage,” he said. “We are talking to people who share our 20 to 30 year view of the business expanding across the whole of the U.S. We will float Itsu on a stock market within the next five years.”

The business is also testing new technology which will allow customers to personalize their food order on an app so they can choose every piece of sushi themselves ready to collect.

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