Meet Emma Woods, Wagamama CEO

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Next up in our ‘Meet the CEO’ series is Emma Woods, the leading lady of Wagamama.


Wagamama is lots of Japanese food lovers’ favourite restaurant chain. But who’s behind the successful brand?

Who is Wagamama’s CEO, Emma Woods?

The CEO of Wagamama is Emma Woods. She succeeded Jane Holbrook in the company’s top position in December 2018. Across two years at the restaurant chain, Emma climbed the company hierarchy from her original position as Customer Director in 2017.

Before arriving at Wagamama, she had held positions at other companies, including Marketing Director at both Unilever and Pizza Express. Immediately before joining Wagamama, she was Non-Executive Director of The Gym Group.

Emma studied Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford before embarking on her corporate career.

Keen to further the growth of Wagamama in the UK and beyond, Emma Woods says:

“I am passionate about innovation. I have always been passionate [about] it. And again, I have been passionate about it since working at Unilever.’

What is Wagamama?

Wagamama serves up Japanese-style cuisine all over the world. The restaurant chain was born in the UK, which is now its leading market, but it also has branches across Europe, North America and the Middle East. Wagamama has recently opened new premises in Spain and Saudi Arabia, and aspires to expand further into the US by building on its three existing stateside restaurants in the near future.

Wagamama proudly claims to believe in the philosophy of ‘Kaizen’, or ‘good change’. When opening its first store in Bloomsbury, London, the chain realised that there was a gap in the market for a healthy alternative to fast food. Ever since the first restaurant’s doors opened, Wagamama has combined nutritious and nourishing flavours with fast-paced table service.


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How successful is the Wagamama restaurant chain?

Having capitalised on new trends, Wagamama has only grown in recent years. The brand reported a 12 percent increase in turnover in the first quarter of 2018, and also opened four new restaurants across Liverpool, Rushden Lakes, Chelmsford and the East Midlands. With new franchise locations also having opened in Qatar, Norway and Italy, it’s clear that Wagamama is still leading the clean-eating movement that is sweeping across the globe.

Succeeding in a digital age

Wagamama’s success in recent years is partially down to the development of its online delivery service. Since Deliveroo arrived on the fast-food scene in 2013, Wagamama diners have been able to enjoy the chain’s menu from the comfort of their own homes. The Japanese franchise has consistently been one of Deliveroo’s most popular restaurant chains and, in 2018, its chicken katsu curry was one of the delivery app’s top 10 most ordered dishes in London.


Does Wagamama franchise?

Yes, it does. While Wagamama did use the franchise model to expand in the UK at one time, the only region that is currently open to franchise opportunities is Germany. However, you can still register your interest to develop the brand in a particular market by clicking here.

If you’re interested in what was included in the UK franchise opportunity or simply learning more about what you can expect from a restaurant chain’s franchise package, you can view its franchise profile here.

Other franchise opportunities

It might not currently be possible to own your own Wagamama franchise in the UK, but don’t fret - we have a number of franchises that offer Japanese cuisine.

Marugame Udon

This Japanese restaurant franchise serves delicious, authentic food all over Europe. Its speciality is its freshly-made-on-site udon noodles that can be served in as little as 30 seconds. This means that up to 256 customers can be served per hour. Marugame Udon certainly puts the quick in quick service restaurant.

  • About Marugame Udon: When you dine at Marugame Udon, there is a unique open kitchen and casual dining setting. Hundreds of thousands of customers help themselves to its tempura, rice balls and other goodies across the world every day.
  • How to become a Marugame Udon franchisee: The brand is looking for area development franchisees who are keen to develop at least five restaurants. You can opt for a food court, street-front or stand-alone concept. Unlike some food franchise opportunities, Marugame Udon asks that its candidates have previous experience running successful restaurant or retail multi-unit operations.
  • How much you need to invest upfront: Depending on which franchising option you choose, the investment will range from £225,000 to over £500,000.
  • What you get in return: You’ll be allocated your own exclusive territory and have access to the brand’s exclusive training programme. There’s also a local support structure with over a century of experience in the industry between them, operational advice, frequent updates to the operations manual and more. Basically, anything that Marugame Udon can do to help you to succeed, it will.


Wok to Walk

You’ve probably seen Wok to Walk’s black and orange logo on the high street somewhere. Ever wondered if you could own your own? Well, read on to find out more about the exciting opportunity.

  • About Wok to Walk: There are over 85 Wok to Walk stores giving customers their Asian food fix and taking the food service industry by storm.
  • How to become a Wok to Walk franchisee: The franchise opportunity is flexible. You can open a flagship store or a hole-in-the-wall spot, it’s up to you! It’s the versatile business model that attracts all types of customers.
  • How much you need to invest upfront: Restaurant start-up costs can vary, but you’re looking at around £100,000 for the minimum investment cost.What you get in return: As well as operating under a globally recognised brand name, you will benefit from a tried and tested training programme. The HQ team works with franchisees and provides bespoke consultancy services and support.

Start your own Japanese restaurant franchise

Mad about Japanese food? Read another one of our articles here about whether or not Panda Express franchises in the UK. We’ve also got a couple more noodle franchises that you can check out. Remember to always do your due diligence before buying a franchise so you don’t end up in any sticky situations further down the line.

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