Wagamama owner to raise salaries for chefs as staff crisis deepens


CEO Andy Hornby told Standard the group, which is also behind Frankie & Benny’s, will step up as part of a series of measures to attract staff.

Wagamama has struggled to hire enough chefs. Pan-Asian channel CEO Thomas Heier told the Press Association last week that the channel was struggling at about a fifth of its 144 sites.

Hornby said: “We do a whole series of things. It’s not just about the big paychecks, it’s about how tips are shared, how the team’s workload is shared.

“The chef population is an area where there are very targeted investments in wages.”

He added: “We don’t do one size fits all. [for chefs]. It’s about seeing which restaurants and which part of the country are experiencing particular shortages. The company also plans to train chefs through a new apprenticeship program.

There is an ongoing labor shortage affecting restaurant and cafe chains, and many are launching waves of hiring and raising wages. Costa announced last week that he would grant a 5% pay rise to 14,500 employees working in his UK company-owned stores.

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A combination of Brexit and Covid saw many workers return to their home countries, while some employees on leave took jobs in other sectors as the hospitality industry faced long periods of shutdowns and shutdowns. reopening uncertain in the last 18 months.

Hornby said, “We can all adjust wages, but it’s not enough. What you really need to do is try to set up your working structures to make Wagamama the most attractive place to work in the UK catering industry, and that’s what we let’s try to do.

The group, which has around 400 pubs and restaurants across the UK, said sales fell 4.6% to £ 216.8million for the six months leading up to July 4 as closures caused havoc.

The company had spent £ 5.5million a month on lockdown, cut 3,000 jobs and permanently shut down more than 200 sites since the start of the pandemic.

But Wagamama saw like-for-like growth of 21% between the reopening of theaters on May 17 and August 29, with its advertising business registering growth of 14% over the period. Suburbs like Richmond and Enfield are experiencing booming commerce, Hornby said.

On Wednesday, the company said Wagamama has the potential to reach 180-200 locations in the coming years, with at least five new delivery kitchens due to be established each year.

Hornby said delivery now accounts for nearly 25% of Wagamama’s sales, up from around 10% during the same period in 2019. The CEO said the growth in delivery sales, along with a boom in stays and pent-up demand, helped the chain see significant like-for-like sales growth over the summer.

Overall delivery sales increased 146% in the eight weeks to August 29.

Third Bridge analyst Harry Barnick said the surge in delivery sales seen even after restaurants reopened suggests Covid’s shift to take-out is “structural rather than temporary.”

Hornby said the most popular delivery order is the same as the chain’s internal customers – his signature chicken katsu curry.



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