Robin Rowland has stepped down from the board of Yo! after 20 years with the casual dining concept, including stints as CEO, chairman and, most recently, non-executive director.
Rowland joined the fledgling Yo!, then Yo! Sushi, as chief executive in July 1999 and, in 2003, led a £10m management buyout of the company – backed by Primary Capital – when the group had 12 sites and sales of £12.5m. Rowland and his team then grew the number of restaurants rapidly to 30 by March 2008, which saw a second management buyout valued at more than £50m by Quilvest and the Yo! Sushi senior management team, including Rowland.
Rowland has since negotiated Yo! Sushi through some choppy waters. In the UK there has been Brexit, rising costs and the fierce level of competition in the casual dining market with which to contend. In 2016, the company made a £23m pre-tax loss, due in part to write-downs on US sites that didn’t work out, which has resulted in a change in strategy when it comes to expansion there. More recently it has acquired Canadian operator Bento, Taiko foods and, earlier this summer, US brand SnowFox.
Richard Hodgson, chief executive of YO! said: “Robin took sushi to the masses, growing YO!, from a fledgling business to one of the UK’s most loved and iconic restaurant chains. Though he will be sorely missed by everyone at YO!, we wish him the best with his future projects, all of which will benefit from his considerable experience and insight.”
Robin Rowland added: “The acquisition of Snow Fox last month marks a further milestone in YO!’s pivot to a diversified global multi-brand and multi-format Japanese food group. As such, now’s the right time for me to step down from the Board to make room for others who can guide YO! through to the next stage of development.”
“I’m incredibly proud of everything we’ve done over the years at YO!, and the extraordinary people I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside, who make this business so very special.”
Rowland was awarded an OBE for services to hospitality in 2016.