Wagamama is the UK’s leading pan-Asian casual restaurant chain. It first opened in Bloomsbury, London in 1992, and recently celebrated 30 years in business. Established as a celebration of Asian food, the chain took its inspiration from fast-paced Japanese ramen bars. Wagamama quickly hooked diners on its “bowl to soul” dining philosophy, which has spurred the company’s continuous expansion to over 200 locations in 22 countries, including over 150 restaurants in the UK alone.
Wagamama has always been at the cutting edge of innovation and is constantly adapting to an ever-changing food industry. This year, Wagamama became the UK’s first high street restaurant to make 50% of its menu meat-free, in a bid to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change.
Emma Paintin is a Digital Project Manager at Wagamama. Paintin is responsible for managing and coordinating digital projects, improving the online experience for both Wagamama’s customers and its internal team.
Emma describes how the company first realised that it needed to improve their digital menu process. At the time, there was a disconnect between Wagamama’s recipe management system and its online menus. For example, if a supplier changed its ingredients, this first needed to be updated on the menu management system, which in turn altered nutritional information and allergen profiles. This information would then need to be passed on to Wagamama’s internal team, who would manually update the online menus. The process brought with it many challenges.
A manual, time-consuming process
“At the time, the calorie and allergen information on our online menus was being managed manually across all platforms. This required constant communication between the different stakeholders and was quite a laborious process. Even the smallest changes to ingredients can alter the entire nutrient profile of a dish, so it’s vitally important to keep everything up to date,” says Paintin.
“The old system relied on someone within the supply chain or the food team to relay changes to members of the digital team so they could update the menus accordingly. All changes to the menu were input manually. This was incredibly time-consuming and took up valuable resources. As suppliers change their ingredients quite often, it also meant that information went out of date quickly and constantly needed updating. This manual process left a lot of room for human error, which was also a big concern. As we wanted to be inclusive of people with allergies, it was important to us to find an improved, more reliable system.”
Wagamama integrated with Ten Kites from Nutritics in 2019. As well as updating their UK website, which provides the menu for the over 150 UK outlets, Wagamama used the Ten Kites API to populate the nutritional and allergen information on their click and collect menu.
“When we first onboarded with Ten Kites from Nutritics, their team rebuilt all of our menu webpages, which were embedded into our website. The new menus automatically pulled all the right information from our existing recipe management system, Hamilton Grant, and published it online. It continues to do so to this day, as we have a nightly feed from Hamilton Grant that updates instantly without any manual effort. This is particularly important in the current climate as many food businesses are facing supply chain issues. This means that changes to ingredients occur a lot more regularly than before.”
Allowing guests to filter by dietary preference
“As well as updating the data flows, we also built in filters so that guests can easily find the dishes that suit them.”
Today, the interactive Wagamama online menu allows users to filter by dietary preference, including vegan and vegetarian. Guests can also remove dishes that contain certain ingredients such as celery, gluten, eggs, fish, lupin and crustaceans. Items displayed on the digital menu provide a host of information such as the ingredients, calories, allergens, nutritional information and an image of the dish itself. Icons displayed under dishes highlight whether or not the dish is suitable for vegans and/or vegetarians.
Prior to integrating with Ten Kites from Nutritics, Wagamama provided allergen PDFs in their restaurants. With changes to ingredients being made all the time, these would go out of date quickly. Using Ten Kites from Nutritics, Wagamama created a separate allergen output. This output is now displayed on mobile devices inside the restaurant. Like the online menus, this allergen profile is fitted with a filtering system so that store managers can help guests choose which dishes can be modified.
Integrating with Ten Kites from Nutritics has helped Wagamama to streamline their entire menu management process. Removing the need for manual updates has transformed internal workflows, but Wagamama guests are also reaping the benefits.
“With our new digital menu processes, we can have 100% confidence in the allergen data we publish both online and in our restaurants. This creates a much safer environment for our guests.
“Internally, it’s been a huge time-saver, removing a series of manual processes that were once needed to update our menus. As well as removing the possibility of admin errors, it has freed up internal resources as menu data are now updated automatically.”
Setting Wagamama up for future success
Besides enhancing the entire digital menu management process, Wagamama has also set itself up for future success. With Ten Kites from Nutritics, the Asian-fusion chain is perfectly placed to adapt to new legislative changes. As Paintin explains, this is an advantage that Wagamama hadn’t foreseen, but it’s been a welcome added benefit.
“As well as being a huge time-saver, when it comes to adapting to new legislative requirements we have noticed the benefits of having an automated menu management system.
“As certain legislation comes to the forefront, we gain a lot of confidence in knowing that we already have a robust solution in place. We implemented Ten Kites from Nutritics in 2019. The new calorie labelling legislation, which requires food businesses to display calories on menus, came shortly afterwards. As other companies had to adapt, we were already set up. Having something in place that allowed us to display calories easily and accurately was a nice win!”
To learn more about how Ten Kites from Nutritics can make menu management a breeze for your business, visit www.tenkites.com.