Wagamama first opened for business, in Bloomsbury, London, on 22 April 1992. To mark its 25th anniversary this weekend, chief executive David Campbell sent a message to the company’s growing family of 169 restaurants in 20 territories worldwide, complete with a unique birthday quote from the concept’s founder Alan Yau.
Campbell said: “The opening in Madrid marked our 20th global market, and Italy and France will follow soon. Our UK and US expansion also continues at pace; in the US a second site in New York’s East Village is under construction, as is a flagship site in Boston’s thriving Seaport. In our home market of the UK we are now 124 restaurants strong, with a new UK northern flagship in Edinburgh opening just last week.
“Our UK success has been the envy of the industry, with many awards, and like-for-like performance that has now significantly outpaced the UK market for 152 consecutive weeks, which I think is unprecedented. This last week I was asked to speak in September at a big hospitality event with the title: ‘New Life for a Pioneer Brand: Building Success from Success, The European Fast Casual Leader Returns’. I didn’t write the title, but I love it and I think speaks of all that the Wagamama family has achieved.
“As you know ‘kaizen’, which doesn’t have an English equivalent word but is essentially ‘continuous improvement’ or ‘good change’, sits at the heart of everything we do. It pushes us to find better ways in all that we do. We’re restless spirits, and forever looking to make things better. Kaizen has been a part of Wagamama since we started 25 years ago. In the intervening period, I am sure there are times when we have been good at kaizen, and less good, but I have no doubt that the renaissance of the Wagamama is due to embracing the founding principles of the company. And there are very few international brands that can say that. Today, all of you deserve every bit of credit for all that has been achieved – so thank you to everyone in our family of almost 7,000 around the globe.
“However there is on person, on our 25th anniversary, I want to single out for thanks and is the culinary genius – then and now – who created and founded Wagamama, Alan Yau. Without him, we would not be where we are today. Thank you, Alan. So, today, I cannot think of any more fitting way to end this thank you (to you) than with a few words Alan has asked me to pass on.
It starts with a quote and then he continues with a few comments. ‘Before the discovery of Australia, people in the Old World were convinced that all swans were white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence… One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans. All you need is one single (and, I am told, quite ugly) black bird,’ wrote Nassim Nicholas Taleb. As the theory goes, the Black Swan represents an event that comes as a surprise, creating an extreme impact that can only be rationalised by hindsight, as if it could have been expected all along. This is how I see the achievement of Wagamama, of course with the benefit of 25 years of hindsight – it jolted the status quo to establish a lasting legacy. Here’s to continuing to grow that legacy, and continuing to create an iconic global brand. Happy 25th everyone!”