Wagamama boss vows further menu and kitchen investment to keep rivals at bay

Wagamama has brushed aside the chaos enveloping the UK casual dining market to record an 8% increase in turnover for the past three months, with its CEO promising further investment in its menu and kitchens to maintain its position.

Group turnover for the business, which also trades in Europe and the Middle East, grew 12.5% to £72m for the three months to January 2018.

One new restaurant opened, in Reigate, during the quarter, while a branch in Colchester launched last month. New franchise restaurants have opened in Oman, Italy, Dubai and Austria over recent months, too.

Wagamama said that six refurbishments were completed in Q3, bringing Kaizen design and additional covers where possible to the existing estate. Two further refurbishments are currently underway, the chain confirmed.

Since the start of its financial year, Wagamama has opened six UK restaurants and completed 21 refurbishments. It now runs 185 branches worldwide.

CEO Jane Holbrook commented: “We’ve continued to perform strongly with 8.2% UK like-for-like sales growth in the third quarter and are pleased to have continued to trade ahead of the competition consistently for over three years. We have fantastic people across our business who do amazing jobs, and we’d like to say an enormous thank you to them.

“Our successful results allow us to continue our investment in developing our people, our menu, our sites and in better understanding our customers to allow us to innovate to meet their changing tastes and dining preferences. We believe this will further strengthen our business and brand and helps us to build in resilience to the current market challenges.”

Wagamama said that its gross margin increased from £28m to £30.3m in the third quarter, but noted that the growth in the estate and like-for-like sales were the primary causes of the rise. This further includes the impact of supply chain and National Living Wage cost increases, it said.

The first nine months of the year have now generated turnover of £219m for the business, an increase of 13% on the previous year. Nine-monthly operating profit before exceptional items fell from £17.3m to £14.8m.

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