Wagamama makes moves to encourage diners to stay longer

By Ruth Williams

- Last updated on GMT

Growing day parts by serving breakfast and encouraging more dwell time in the evening at Wagamama are part of its latest evolution
Growing day parts by serving breakfast and encouraging more dwell time in the evening at Wagamama are part of its latest evolution

Related tags: Restaurant, Wagamama

Growing day parts and increasing evening dwell time forms the basis for Wagamama's latest evolution, according to global marketing and property director at Wagamama, Simon Cope. 

According to BigHospitality's sister site M&C Allegra Foodservice​, the new look is showcased at its flagship Soho restaurant that opens today at Great Marlborough Street as it plans to add 40 restaurants to its estate in the next three years. 

The Soho site is the first high street location to offer breakfast, which is currently also on the menu at Heathrow T5, and has evolved its evening dishes available across the estate to encourage longer dwell time.

The flagship restaurant brings the kitchen to the forefront of a customer’s experience. It is visible from the street with a bench of high seats in front of it so diners can sit and eat face to face with the chefs. This, as well as booth-style seating, creates a more intimate experience than the familiar Wagamama long benches and communal seating areas in bright airy spaces, which is another thing Cope said has been added to encourage diners to dwell longer in the evenings.

As well as designing more intimate space into the restaurants, the group has increased the beers and wine selection on the menu in an effort to appeal to people who want to spend longer over a few drinks as well as the mainstay customers who visit for a quick meal.

Cope said the ethos for continuous change is to do 100 things 1 per cent differently not 100 per cent changes, and the biggest challenge the company faces is keeping everyone within the company constantly embracing the changes.

Wagamama has spent the past two years preparing for the changes to the store and menu design and gearing up for the next phase of growth.

It has so far refurbished five sites over the past five months to incorporate elements of the new design but the Great Marlborough Street venue is the first to unveil the new style all together.

The group has a pipeline of 15-20 restaurant openings in place for 2015 including Gatwick North Terminal, Winchester, Trowbridge, Coventry and The Trafford Centre.

Cope said the strategy is to open 40 restaurants in the next three years but will remain highly selective on sites so will not be held to a number if suitable sites are not available.

To this end, it has sites in the pipeline for three years hence that have been earmarked but are unavailable until that time.

He said city centres remain the priority for Wagamama but will look at more suburban locations also.

In the UK, Wagamama has a list of 180 target locations that are under continuous review awaiting available venues in each of the target areas and towns.

Overseas Wagamamas is continuing to build its presence, Cope said the US remains a priority to build upon the four sites in the Boston area to add to its overseas estate that currently stands at c40 franchised sites.

Executive chef Steve Mangleshot said the breakfast menu has been launched at the flagship site in the face of an increasingly competitive marketplace and rising expectations from customers.

The breakfast menu has been designed by Mangleshot and his team to be recognisable as breakfast but with the Wagamama mark on it

“We are famous for noodles so don’t want to lose the heritage of being a noodle bar. For me it was about adding breakfast elements to it so we keep the noodles and ramen but make it into breakfast.”

Related topics: Business, Restaurants, Venues

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