Marugame Udonb Waterloo (2)

Marugame Udon Europe’s 10-strong estate is effectively positioned for further growth, with a strong franchisable model, according to CEO Keith Bird.

Bird speaks to MCA following the announcement earlier this week that parent company Toridoll Holdings will take full ownership of the noodle concept. Capdesia successfully exits its investment four years after joining forces with Toridoll to launch the brand in the UK, while FD Sam McIntyre will take the helm.

“Capdesia were very much there to go through the first phase and get it up to a critical mass,” Bird says. “That’s always been the intent.

“Toridoll can now manage and continue the pace of growth.”

A Toridoll spokesperson told MCA: “Up to date, we have already clarified our initial phase targets in the UK market through the simultaneous verification of multiple location models. Going forward, we will prioritize quality over quantity and establish a high performing store model.”

After reaching the 10-site mark, Marugame “eased off” expansion last year, according to Bird, with Capdesia securing a successful exit.

“The foundations are now set up for future growth,” he adds.

Marugame Udon at The O2_2

The initial plan, as announced in 2022, was to open 150 sites across Europe by 2027. Bird admits the target is unlikely to be achieved but emphasises that Toridoll may return to accelerating growth further down the line.

Marugame’s UK estate, nonetheless, is in a “good stable place,” with a strong brand and economic model. Its CRM database stands at over 320,000 across 10 sites – c32,000 per site and significant considering its small estate.

In terms of trading, the brand saw a strong Q1 and a “bumpier” Q2 this year, in line with the market, according to Bird. He expects performance to return to steadier trading patterns in the remainder of the year.

The foundations for further expansion are all in place, with low turnover and brand awareness now at 40% in London and growing, marketing director Hilary Ansell adds.

Marugame has also held talks with potential franchisees in Europe.

“Hilary and the rest of the team has created the best in-class playbook for new market entry,” Bird continues. 

“That playbook has become international best practice, from our store designs, systems, marketing and CRM, people and culture, commercial and food agenda, to how we run operations…it’s been subsumed into the mothership and shared with other markets.”

”We’d love to see Marugame going from strength to strength in the future as a result of the foundations we have set in place these first four years,” Ansell adds.