Alan Yau to launch retail and restaurant ramen concept

By Finn Scott-Delany

- Last updated on GMT

Alan Yau to launch retail and restaurant ramen concept

Related tags Alan yau Wagamama Restaurant Casual dining QSR Ramen Omnichannel Delivery & takeaway

Wagamama founder Alan Yau is to launch a restaurant and retail concept selling plant-based ramen.

Building on the success of the Japanese-inspired casual dining concept he founded in 1992, Yau said he was inspired to develop a ‘Wagamama 2.0’ for retail, due to the capital-intensive nature of running restaurants in the UK.

The restaurateur, who now lives in Barcelona, but regularly travels to London, Dubai, Istanbul and Las Vegas, plans to launch a proof-of-concept site next year inspired by Apple stores, which will be part retail unit, part restaurant, with noodles produced on-site.

The venue, which won’t feature Yau’s name above the door, will have a noodle restaurant at the back and a retail component at the front.

Fresh ramen will be made on-site and the cooked, chilled dishes will come in four flavours, with a plant-based dashi and miso broth.

The products served in the restaurants will be exactly the same as those sold for home consumption with the broth, noodles, toppings and seasoning coming in separate packaging with shelf-life of 21-22 days.

The products will also be sold via an e-commece platform and supermarkets.

Speaking with Restaurant​’s sister MCA​, Hong Kong-born Yau said he decided to return to ramen, a category he helped popularise in the UK, because of the “heavy-lifting” required to establish a new cuisine category in the mainstream.

“I don’t want to do the hero’s journey,” he said. “I want to do it much quicker, that journey I want to leave it to someone else because that can take decades.

“The good thing about ramen at the moment is in terms of Asian comfort food, it has no competition. It has a similar tribal appeal to the burger in the West.

“It’s got to the stage as a product where it has universal appeal, it has slowly come out of the ‘ethnic’ category into what I call world food. On top of that it has a somewhat cult status amongst foodies.”

A new food channel

Yau, who was also behind the creation of restaurant brands Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Park Chinois, and Busaba Eathia, said he decided to enter a new food channel because of the high set up costs involved with restaurants.

“The restaurant business is too capital intensive [which means] your scalability is nowhere near fast or dynamic enough, because you rely on finding the location and then the setup, the design, the development, the build,” he said.

“On top of that, you need to prove a concept, and you don’t know if that new location is going to be good or not.”

The retail ramen product, which Yau said he was not able to name yet, will look to “transcend those roadblocks”, with a conceptual idea that is “a lot easier to make work”. It will have one core recipe and four flavours that can be produced in a factory, with a main distribution to supermarkets,
Yau plans to do some whitebox testing in Barcelona through a hole in the wall to test the products without branding.

“What’s more important in terms of my presence is the DNA of the product and the platform,” he added.

This is an edited article of one that first appeared in MCA. To subscribe to its new site, click here

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