Shaper: Simon Woodroffe

Simon Woodroffe, OBE
Founder of YO!

Simon is the creator of YO! Sushi, and was an original Dragon in the premiere series of BBC’s Dragons’ Den. His early career was spent on the road with the likes of Rod Stewart and The Moody Blues before becoming a stage designer. After a spell in television, he conceived and launched YO! Sushi in 1997, a conveyor belt sushi bar featuring call buttons, robot drinks trolleys, Japanese TV, self-heating plates and other such novelties. In 2003, Simon sold his controlling interest in YO! Sushi in a £10m deal, backed by private equity firm Primary Capital, but initially kept a 22% stake.

Simon received an OBE in 2006 and along with Gerard Greene went on to create YOTEL, the world’s most radical hotel. A 669 room YOTEL opened in central New York in Summer 2011, and in 2017 a 600 room YOTEL opens in Singapore’s Orchard Road. Further openings are scheduled as follows: San Francisco & Boston in late 2017, and Miami, LONDON, Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Dubai Business Bay planned for 2019. More are in the pipeline.

YO! Home, Simon’s re-invention of the city apartment, launched at 100% Design in September 2012 and the first development looks set to launch in Manchester in 2017.

Follow Simon on Twitter @woodroffe_simon.

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“Everybody said you should work and you should try and find something to do which you like and I really couldn’t think of anything to do with work that I liked. But I did like rock n roll music…”

“I’ve been lost lots of times in my life which is why I’ve done so many different things.”

“One thing I had leaving school early was that I didn’t have the imagination educated out of me, which is what I think we can do to our kids if we’re not careful.”

“…that little voice in the back of your mind chips in and goes ‘well if this is really such a good idea somebody who knew a lot more about restaurants than you would have done that years before.'”

“Every pop star and their mum came to it and it was very exciting. It was the place to be, it was an exciting brand and even people who didn’t like sushi said, oh I’m going to go anyway it sounds like really good fun.'”

“When I saw something wrong in the restaurant in the first few years I would have to walk once around the block doing deep breathing exercises before I shouted at somebody.”

“What the Yo! brand tries to do is to give everybody what rich people have.”

“To live in a world that, in this day and age, has that much inequality between the very wealthy and the very poor… there has to be an adjustment.”

“At times I was a hard arse, and I think I’m a lot easier and gentler. In fact, if I look back, I think I could have done things differently. I don’t particularly regret it but now is my chance to help other people do things.”