The sale happened after sluggish performance during the pandemic and pressure from activist investors. 

The owner of casual-dining chain Wagamama is being sold to Apollo Global Management for a reported $623 million. 

The London-based Asian concept, operated by The Restaurant Group, has eight locations in the U.S.—three in New York, two in Boston, and one each in Atlanta, Dallas, and Tampa. It’s been in the country since 2007. In the U.S., Wagamama is part of a joint venture partnership with U.S. operators Robert Cornog and Richard Flaherty. The duo owns 80 percent while The Restaurant Group has 20 percent. Cornog and Flaherty also lead Punch Bowl Social, a once-rising eatertainment chain that’s looking to restart growth. 

There are also hundreds of Wagamama restaurants across the world in the U.K., Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Cyrpus, Denmark, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. 

The Restaurant Group bought Wagamama in 2018. At the time, it had 133 directly-operated restaurants in the U.K., five directly-operated units in the U.S., and 58 franchised restaurants across several countries.

Bloomberg reported The Restaurant Group made the move after activist shareholders expressed concerns about the company’s stock price and performance. The group’s stock had fallen more than 90 percent from its highest point in 2015, Bloomberg noted. It also suffered during the pandemic and faced challenges from activist investors, including Hong Kong-based Oasis Management and Irenic Capital Management, according to the publication. In September, The Restaurant Group chairman Ken Hanna stepped down after pressure from investors. He took the post in January 2022. 

In addition to Wagamama, the company oversees 400-plus restaurants and pubs in the U.K. 

The U.S.-based Apollo said in a news release that it has closely followed The Restaurant Group for many years and that it sees the business as “a high quality and leading company in the casual dining market with an attractive portfolio of concepts and brands and an experienced management team with a clear vision and strategy for the future direction of TRG.”

“This investment aligns with our strategy of backing industry leading companies to drive profitable growth over the long-term,” Alex Van Hoek, a partner in Apollo’s private equity business, said in a statement. “TRG’s business has proven resilient through macroeconomic cycles but the outlook is still one of high interest rates and inflationary pressures and the company now needs the support of patient private capital, to achieve its ambitions. We look forward to working with the management team and investing in TRG to accelerate its long-term strategy, leveraging our significant industry experience.”

Apollo previously owned fast casual QDOBA for roughly five years. In 2022 it sold the chain to Butterfly, the owner of Modern Market Eatery and Lemonade
Chain Restaurants, Feature, Finance, Wagamama