16 Jun

What do you get when you take a man from Ohio, send him to Portland for a while and then transplant him to Helsinki? I’m quite sure that the words ‘frozen yoghurt’ were not the first to spring to mind.

I was first told about the Yobot shop a few months ago. Then I happened to walk past one day on my way to an appointment. It was a cold day, not particularly sunny and the Yobot shop was full of happy students. A few weeks ago, when my husband and I had a spare hour up our sleeves and were in the neighbourhood, I convinced him that we should check this place out. Tom was behind the counter and quickly introduced us to the concept: serve yourself, add the topping, pay the weight. Enjoy!

My first Yobot: Vanilla, Chocolate yoghurt, muesli and berries

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit with Tom and ask a few questions about him and the business. We started off by talking about how he got to be in Finland in the first place. Like many he had a Finnish spouse, and had been holidaying in Finland for many years before moving here. Although the marriage did not last, the family ties remain and Tom has settled here, providing his family with the opportunity to appreciate their Finnish heritage as well as enjoying life in Finland.’I love Finland … and … I knew what I was getting into’.

My main interest was ‘why yoghurt’? For Tom, it was time to do something different from the web development work that had been his bread and butter. Time for a change and he knew that food would go over well. It helps that his ex-wife is also his number one fan * and that he loves frozen yoghurt. This was the right business for Tom to ‘break ground and learn the ropes’.

Business philosophy has the power to make or break a business. Tom worked for twelve long months bringing his idea to fruition, and has already built a decent loyal clientele from the locals. It’s job security and he has total control over his job description. What better job is there than to be paid to do what you love doing? He’ll know when he’s made it, because a young lad of 5 or so will come to the counter with his own pot of yoghurt and a big “!@* eating grin! My son is already a big fan too, although I think that is more to do with the large graffiti style logo that dominates one wall. As you can see from my ‘regular customer’ card I’m also a fan!

Loyal customer card: after 2 weeks!

His space in Töölö is quite compact and already Tom has eyes on the future and something to carry him through the winter. Finns however eat a huge amount of ice-cream (14 litres per person per annum reported in 2006), so some re-education could send hordes of Finns to Yobot even during the winter months. We talked about selling frozen yoghurt on the go. It didn’t go so well for the business that tried it earlier. Tom misses the ‘food-cart culture’ that is so prevalent in Portland. It’s building slowly in Helsinki, and for the vendors has not always been an easy journey.

The machine serves up vanilla, a second flavour and then a mix of the two. The ‘other’ flavour changes quite regularly: the machine is cleaned out every 5 days and after the 2nd cleaning the flavour is changed. I’ve tried chocolate, peach, orange and the most recent flavour is banana which I sampled today as a take-away. (It was very pleasant to sit in the park, catching a few rays and eating my yoghurt at the same time.) The hardest part is trying to work out what topping to put on top! Chopped nuts, diced fruit, hard candy, honey, flavoured syrup, cinnamon, jam, crushed biscuits, shredded coconut, muesli and sprinkles. Too many to choose from! I like my yoghurt plain or with fruit. My teen son and husband both prefer theirs with lollies and fresh fruit.

Bulk orders aren’t easily available as the machine has limited capacity. If you are looking for something a little different, you can’t go past the puck! A frozen yoghurt sandwich, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The cookie is not too thick, and I can confirm that they taste as good as they look:

Yobot Puck: ready to eat!

The menu also includes berry smoothies and the teenager has sampled this twice already! Although space is limited, Tom would like to open up the basement area for small private parties. Recently we arrived just after an acoustic set by Satin Circus and hopefully as soon as the appropriate permit is secured, a terrace area will open up on street level.

Pricing follows the KISS principle: Keep it simple silly! It really is very simple, you only pay for the quantity that you take. That also means that if you take a lot you pay a lot! Still, it works. Tom estimates that 95% take at least one topping and if you’d rather have your yoghurt plain there is a separate price for yoghurt with no topping.

T-Shirt on Yobot blue wall

There are also caps and t-shirts for sale. The shade of blue on the back wall is very inviting and highlights the white of the t-shirt very nicely. The ‘bot’ is featured on one wall, larger than life!

In parting, I asked Tom if he had any advice for visitors to Helsinki in summer and then winter. Summer visitors are recommended to visit Pihjalasaari and enjoy the seal life **, while winter visitors should brave the elements and take a walk over the iced up sea near Kaivopuisto ***.

Important facts: Yobot is situated in Töölö, at Runeberginkatu 54 A. Opening hours and current events are updated on their Facebook fan page.

* Speaking from personal experience, never underestimate the power of your fans!

** Seal life entails laying on the warm rocks, soaking up the sun and then rolling into the cool sea. Climb back to the rocks, bask and repeat!

*** Walking on the frozen sea is an amazing experience, especially when the ice moves, groans and creaks. Be careful though, thin ice claims the lives of some Finns every year.


10 Responses to “Yobot!”

  1. datr3128 03/07/2012 at 00:47 #

    great article. it only left out one thing: what do you get when this man gets transplanted to Helsinki? you get a good friend!

    • Kanerva 03/07/2012 at 07:05 #

      Thank you friend, I knew something would miss the final edit…
      Finland needs many more like you 🙂
      Here’s to the start of something good!

  2. Jennifer 03/07/2012 at 14:31 #

    That is fantastic! Wish we had one of those here. And I love the whole pay for exacty what you get, no fixed prices for silly sizes… get a little pay a little.. feeling hungry, well you have to pay for your appetite. I think I’d go broke with my lot in that shop. 🙂

    • Kanerva 03/07/2012 at 15:04 #

      I found that out the first time 🙂 I also took a big cup instead of a small one…

  3. jaana beidler 31/10/2012 at 20:59 #

    Dear Heather, It was very nice meeting you this evening for Tom’s candlelight memorial by Yobot. This article on Yobot that you wrote is very cool! I look forward talking more with you. Best,

    • Kanerva 15/11/2012 at 01:46 #

      Dear Jaana,
      I’m glad you liked the article. The ‘spam bot’ got to took your comment before I had a chance to, my apologies for the delay. I am very interested to be involved, so please feel free to contact me at my gmail address.
      Best regards


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