In line with its ambitions to build a global brand and following the conclusion of a strategic review into its U.S. business, on January 31 wagamama entered a U.S. joint venture partnership with Conversion Venture Capital (CVC2) as financial partners and Robert Cornog Jr. and Richard Flaherty as operating partners.
Over the last six months, wagamama has met a wide variety of potential partners, but announced that Robert Cornog and Richard Flaherty, two experienced restaurant operators who were leaders of one of the hottest concepts in U. S. hospitality (Punch Bowl Social), will assume full ownership and operational control of the existing U.S. business as part of an 80:20 joint venture partnership with The Restaurant Group (TRG)—the parent company of wagamama—as minority partner. Cornog and Flaherty will look to rapidly grow the brand across the U.S., starting with the opening of a new midtown location in New York on February 24. The newest wagamama is located at 100 West 55th St., New York, NY, 10019.
The JV has the financial support of CVC2, an investment firm that focuses on partnering with entrepreneurs and management teams that value flexible capital. Cornog and Flaherty share wagamama’s global brand vision and will provide the business with the local operational expertise and leadership needed to accelerate growth.
wagamama opened in London in 1992 and quickly built a reputation for a vibrant, social and egalitarian eating experience, expanding to over 200 locations in 27 countries. That approach continues today in its New York and Boston restaurants. wagamama takes its inspiration from the best flavors of Japan, China and Korea to create unique recipes that have a modern and nourishing twist while offering a fresh take on great Asian-fusion food. Its “bowl to soul” philosophy is at the heart of its continuing global success.
Emma Woods, wagamama Chief Executive Officer, says on the joint venture:
“The customer following wagamama has developed in Boston and New York has only built our confidence in the brand’s global potential, but like many businesses in our industry the challenges of running a U.S. business at arm’s length have inhibited the pace of our growth. In Robert and Richard we’re so pleased to have found two on-the-ground business leaders who not only have the operational experience to realize our ambitions, but who genuinely share our love for everything that makes wagamama so special.”
Adds Flaherty: “wagamama is ideally suited for the U.S. market. Its global culture promotes an engaged, social atmosphere. And its pan-Asian cuisine is fresh, flavorful and appealing to a broad audience. Together, our food and approach deliver a high-quality, high energy, differentiated experience to the modern consumer.
As to its plans in the US, Cornog comments, “There is no reason wagamama cannot be as successful in the U.S. as it is in the UK. I look forward to working with our JV partners to lead the growth in the U.S. and realize our lofty aspirations.”
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