Simon Woodroffe, one of the past dragons in that entrepreneurial BBC den and former roadie for the likes of Rod Stewart, created Yo! Sushi in 1997 and sold the business for £10m after six short years. His start-up costs were a mere £150,000.
The concept of a Japanese-style kaiten conveyor belt method is fun, which is a big part of the company’s ethos.
Customers can sit on futuristic white buckets and choose their meal from colour-coded dishes as they whizz by on the belt while ‘nifty kitchen ninjas’(company wording) prepare fresh dishes right in front of them.
With no fewer than 80 dishes including 35 per cent hot or cooked ones and 25 per cent vegetarian choices, Yo goes in for bright food and coding – six colours, six prices ranging from £1.90 to £5.
Vibrant blue, green, purple and orange lighting dominates throughout the small building.
The service was nothing short of abysmal. Despite a virtually deserted restaurant early one Saturday evening and a sign asking people to wait to be seated, no-one decided to take notice of this customer, creating a grumpy start to the evening which could have easily been avoided.
The staff, bar one remarkable waitress who showed great skills later on during my stay, seemed to think that it was their party, not the customers’.
One sat with a laptop, chatting to staff not about business, unaware of their reason for being there, which was unacceptable – as was the ordering.
For the uninitiated, it was an uphill struggle to get staff to explain how Yo! Sushi works.
For hot dishes not on the belt, press the airline-type button to order via a staff member’s hi-tech handheld gadget for many of the dishes.
Alternatively, take nigiri, rolled sushi, and other dishes rolling by on the kaiten. It’s not easy trying to identify those scooting by and matching them with the menu pictures is partly a guessing game.
A soft shell crab tempura’s batter was far too thick, the crab rather watery, and its mayo accompaniment was hardly Japanese.
Chicken Katsu, a thigh in Japanese breadcrumbs with a fruity sauce, was rather dull and made even duller on undressed, roughly chopped bog-standard cabbage. A simple bowl of sticky rice was, oddly, the best of the bunch, but the miso soup I ordered never arrived.
A large sake machine yielded a small jug of sake, which wasn’t warmed as requested. I also received the wrong, more expensive kind which wasn’t clear until I received my bill.
There are terrific green teas on the market which I buy in leaf form, but Yo! Sushi’s version was tasteless, missing the authenticity it claims to aspire to.
The soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger managed to perk up some of the dishes.
The indifferent service was baffling. The only interest and dedication I saw was in the kitchen, where five black-clothed chefs bent over their work, chopping, slicing and assembling with diligence.
I think it’s a pity they’re let down by serving staff and a lack of quality training.
Hi-tech ordering may be easy for the business. But if two of the five items ordered are wrong or missing, it may be time to drop the future until the present is seen to work.
My bill came to £17.05. I didn’t leave a tip.
Yo! Sushi, Unit 1, Whiteley Shopping Centre, Fareham, PO15 7PD 01489 876752.
Disabled access: Okay. Shared toilet for disabled and non-disabled.
How to get there: Take M27 westbound and exit at Whiteley. Follow signs to shopping village .Yo! Sushi is in the middle of the concourse, between Frankie & Benny’s and Starbucks.
Ratings (maximum *****)