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Jazz Shapers

Business Shapers: Robin Rowland


Robin Rowland OBE, CEO YO! Sushi
Business Shapers from Mishcon De Reya in association with Jazz FM’s Jazz Shapers

I loved YO! Sushi from the first time I saw it and I love it, you know today but having disciplines and experience of successes and failures in large companies you know, put me in a really good place to work with Simon and eventually buy the business off him in 2003. But you can have a great idea but you have to repeat it if you are going to make a big business and we had improved a great deal, we had a great site in Soho, we had great sites in Selfridge’s and Harvey Nichols but the truth is we couldn’t repeat those. My challenge was to prove we could work in other locations which were less obvious so to me the seminal moments were opening in Paddington Station, which was an island location. It has been fantastically successful, it cost buttons to do but it has made a fortune ever since and loved by many Londoners. I also basically took the restaurant overseas and we did you know, a couple of sites in Greece of all places but the challenge of doing that has probably taught me a lot about how to take a brand overseas. We have just done a team engagement survey, 85% of our workforce which is like 1800 people are very happy to work for YO! which is an extraordinarily high number but the truth is it comes from the culture you create and around me I have a team who are positive, they are solution-minded, they are very respectful, they live by four mantras; they are respectful, unconventional, colourful and confident. You know if you want to join YO! you’d better get in chime with those values because we use those when we talk to our landlords, to our suppliers, to our franchisees, to our bankers, everyone knows that we are real and there is no artifice in YO! We just try and do our very, very best every day in a way which is a little bit humble but also confident. But the reality is that we have always thought differently, we don’t think of ourselves as a restaurant business, we work with rock n roll designers and rock n roll graphics companies, our music is bespoke to us. We try to think more into the retail or brand than we do and the food is very, very important to us but we never thought ourselves just as another classic restaurant I am taking myself a frightfully business so a sense of humour and self-deprecation and also listening hard to your guests is what we have done and we tried to stay small while we got big by being humble and listening to people

Robin Rowland featured on Jazz Shapers, a radio programme broadcast on Jazz FM, presented by Mishcon de Reya’s Director of Business Development, Elliot Moss.

On Jazz Shapers, entrepreneurs like Robin Rowland, who have defined and shaped business, are interviewed by Elliot. Alongside music from the risk takers and leaders of jazz, soul, funk and blues, they share the story of their careers and offer advice to anybody thinking of setting up a business.

You can listen to Jazz Shapers live every Saturday at 9am here.

To view previous films, click here.

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