Wagamama bucks the casual dining crunch and nourishes ‘from bowl to soul’

While Jamie’s Italian, Byron Burgers, Strada and the rest feel the casual dining crunch, Wagamama is one of the few restaurant chains that is doing well, giving it the cash and the confidence to go on TV for the first time with a new ad by MullenLowe London.

The chain reported 8.2 per cent like-for-like sales growth in its last quarterly report, and continues to open restaurants at a sensible rate, including expanding around Europe, the US, and the Middle East.

The Japanese-inspired noodle restaurant fits well with current food trends, thanks to a menu that is easy to adapt for vegan, gluten free, clean-eating customers. Wagamama puts its success down to its focus on keeping things fresh, introducing new dishes regularly, and experimenting with recipes in their Soho “noodle lab.”

MullenLowe won Wagamama’s business at the start of 2018. The team who worked on this campaign previously worked on Wagamama while at 101, which had the business from 2013 to 2016 and was bought by MullenLowe last year.

The agency is keeping the spirit of 101 alive by putting out some good work for clients including Subaru and British Heart Foundation, despite issues with MullenLowe’s London profile. Interpublic merged Mullen (a reasonably big player in the US) with Lowe (a one-time UK great) in 2015, and the line up has never quite settled — earlier this year UK CEO Dale Gall left after just 18 months in the job.

This new TV ad mixes live action millennials with Japanese-inspired animation. It will run internationally, using Wagamama’s established “From bowl to soul” line to signal that good food fills more than your belly.

Emma Woods, Wagamama customer director, said: “We are succeeding because we have a core thought that informs everything we do. We really stand for something.”

Phil Rumbol, executive partner at MullenLowe London, said: “Wagamama is a company with a strong founding ethos that still burns brightly today. Over the last four years it’s been a real joy to help project this ‘Bowl to Soul’ spirit in restaurant and via radio advertising, so it’s great to now be given the opportunity to take the brand to the next level by expressing this through the medium of film.”

MAA Creative scale: 6.5

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former London Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.
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