Whiteside – we may need to consider a second brand at some time in the future:Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside has told Propel the food-to-go operator may need to consider acquiring a second brand at “some time in the future”. He told Propel: “We have no plans to acquire a second brand given the long runway of growth still in Greggs although our strategic roadmap does acknowledge we may need to consider that at some time in the future.” The 2,058-strong company has increased its overall growth target for its estate from 2,500 UK shops to 3,000 at a rate of about 100 net openings a year, although Whiteside said this could be accelerated if attractive sites became available sooner, and was confident further opportunities would arise in central London, city centres across the UK and in transport hubs. Whiteside said: “People are worried city centres won’t be busy as we recover from the pandemic, but they will still be busy, maybe not as busy at first. There are also opportunities to secure sites at a good level, which wasn’t there before.” He also saw retail parks as an area for future expansion. He said: “There are about 1,300 retail parks in the UK and we only have about 100 Greggs in those locations, so there is certainly potential to do more here.” Whiteside also said the company would trial a build-your-own sandwich service later this year for its click and collect customers through its Reward scheme, after testing the offer at a single site in Scotland. It will also offer the same trial for its pizzas and toppings. Click and collect has been rolled out across the entire estate and delivery made available from more than 600 shops. He said hot food remained a key area of focus, and the combination with delivery opens the “opportunity for development of our offer to compete in later day trading”. In terms of exploring dark kitchens, Whiteside said the company had already got 2,058 of those across the country, “which we can tap into when needed, especially for evenings”.
Wasabi appoints first retail MD after success of Sainsbury’s link up: Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain led by Henry Birts and backed by Capdesia, has appointed Kate Lucas as its first managing director of retail after seeing the retail sales value in Sainsbury’s of its home bento range rise to £14.7m – a 96% year-on-year increase. Lucas joins Wasabi after more than a year as chief commercial officer at Plenish Drinks. Previous to that, she spent four years as managing director at KIND Snacks and eight years in various management roles at Gu Puds. At Wasabi, she will be tasked with building out and leading its grocery retail team, following on from the successful launch of the range in Sainsbury’s in 2019. Birts said: “It’s no secret 2020 and the beginning of 2021 has been challenging for hospitality but what’s been really positive has been seeing how well our 13 SKU home bento range has been doing at Sainsbury’s, as consumers seek out restaurant quality meals at home. We’re now the number one brand in oriental chilled meals and also the fastest growing ready meal brand in 2020, and we believe there are huge opportunities to scale our home bento range and to build the Wasabi brand further through the retail channel. Not every town and city in the UK has a Wasabi restaurant (yet), but we’re nonetheless seeing strong sales in places where our name is becoming synonymous with quality chilled supermarket meals rather than high street outlets. We’re looking to the future with confidence and Kate’s appointment is a sign of our intentions to invest seriously behind the grocery channel and become a major player in the market.”
Wagamama commits to ‘opening up’ differently in support of young people’s mental health: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned business, has launched Japanese-inspired outdoor benches so “friends can reconnect through real conversation as we all gradually ease out of lockdown”. The specially designed benches will appear in key cities across the UK, starting in Brighton, Bristol and Manchester, and according to the business “mark a turning point as we start to rebuild far too many broken relationships”. The company said the pandemic has intensified mental health struggles especially for young people, so it wants to shine a light on the challenges that many young people will face coming out of lockdown. It said: “The pressure for life to go back to normal will be overwhelming for some and Wagamama wants to focus on giving people the opportunity to have real conversations and connect with their closest friends. An iconic feature of the restaurant, Wagamama’s benches have aided conversation and connected people since it opened its doors in 1992. So, while UK diners aren’t yet allowed to meet their loved ones on the famous benches in restaurants, Wagamama will bring the benches to them.” The government’s roadmap allows two people to meet, socially distanced, on a bench and Wagamama will also be serving up free cups of green tea and encouraging people to “take a moment to sit at the bench and open up with one another about how they are really feeling”. It said it has worked closely with its charity partner Young Minds and mental health campaigner Ben West to “fight for the mental health of this generation to be made a priority”. Wagamama chief executive Emma Woods said: “We can’t nourish young people in our restaurants at the moment but we do want to support them coping with the pressure to put their game face on and ‘party’, as soon as lockdown eases.” Wagamama is set to reopen circa 75 of its sites for outdoor use from Monday, 12 April.
Ramsay set to push forward with expansion plans: Chef Gordon Ramsay is set to push forward with expansion plans for the UK, after lining up a number of sites for his fledgling Street Burger concept. As previously flagged up in Propel Premium, Ramsay has secured the ex-Byron site in London’s Charing Cross Road for an opening under the new burger concept, which he launched at the start of December last year in the One New Change development in St Paul’s. The new 2,070 square foot restaurant, spread over two floors, is set to open in April for outdoor dining. It is thought the chef is also in talks to take the ex-Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, for another Street Burger site. Ramsay is also believed to have made the highest offer to take the former Giraffe site in The Oracle in Reading. He has also been linked with an opening in Kensington High Street. Ramsay currently has 35 restaurants around the world and plans to open a fourth site under his Street Pizza concept at the Battersea Power Station development where Mother Pizza previously traded. In August, accounts for Ramsay’s restaurant business showed he was still planning to open 50 venues across the UK. It is thought many of these will come through his fledgling Street Burger and Street Pizza brands. A further opening of the burger concept is planned for the unit under the chef’s new cooking school in Woking, Surrey. Nick Weir, of Shelley Sandzer, acted on the Charing Cross Road deal on behalf of landlord Gascoyne Holdings.