Wagamama CEO Emma Woods has confirmed she plans to step down to pursue her non-executive career and hand over to her internally-appointed successor, Thomas Heier.
The move will see Mr Heier – currently chief experience officer at the chain – take over the reins from 1 June by which point restaurants will be fully open, as per government guidelines.
Ms Woods will then continue to support the brand as an inaugural member of its brand board.
She has been with the business for four years, initially joining as customer director before being promoted to chief growth officer and then CEO at the time it was acquired by The Restaurant Group in 2018.
Outside of Wagamama she has been a non-executive director of the low-cost gym chain TheGymGroup since 2016 and is taking on its senior independent director and chair of Remco responsibilities in May.
She commented: “It has been an honour to lead the Wagamama business through the last tumultuous years but as the business emerges from the pandemic and starts an exciting new chapter it feels the right time to hand on the chopsticks to someone I know loves the brand as much as I do. I am delighted to be able to continue to support Wagamama as I develop a wider advisory portfolio.”
Her successor joined Wagamama at the same time as she did as people director before going on to assume additional responsibility for its US business in 2018.
He was pivotal in leading its turnaround and the subsequent partner selection process which resulted in Wagamama entering into its current joint venture partnership back in January 2020.
Mr Heier took on his current role as chief experience officer last year which saw him gain additional responsibility for the brand’s marketing, insight and customer experience functions.
Previously he was head of HR for Travelodge and Carnival UK.
He said: “Wagamama is such a special brand underpinned by a meaningful purpose, a strong identity and unique culture. I’m incredibly excited to be given the opportunity to lead a business that’s so close to my heart.”