Wagamama is launching a range of “cook at home” products for sale in supermarkets as part of the pan-Asian chain’s post-pandemic growth strategy.
The restaurant brand will start selling its meal kits, pastes and sauces from Monday in Waitrose, before expanding its ranges into Morrisons, Sainsbury’s Tesco and Ocado in the coming weeks.
It said that all the profits from the range, which will include Katsu paste and pad thai sauce among others, will be donated to mental health charity partner YoungMinds.
The launch is one of the first strategic moves by new boss Thomas Heier, who formally took over from previous chief executive Emma Woods at the start of this month.
He told the PA news agency that the range was inspired by engagement between the chain and its customers during the pandemic.
Wagamama said it saw an enthusiastic response for the Wok from Home cooking series it launched during lockdown and was able to gauge which popular items would work best for the home-cooking range.
“We learned a lot from Wok from Home and that connectivity with people was something we could really look at when thinking about the range,” Mr Heier said.
“We don’t think it will cannibalise our restaurant sales because we had some concerns about that when we started click and collect options and we saw it attracted new customers as well.”
The company has previously sold sauces in supermarkets but the relaunch of products for cooking at home comes as a raft of hospitality chains now look to retail stores to boost sales after a tough trading year.
Chains including Pret a Manger and Leon have launched new supermarket ranges since the start of the pandemic after being impacted by closures.
Mr Heier said he has been pleased by initial trading at Wagamama restaurants since it reopened its doors again to customers following the third lockdown.
He told PA: “We’ve been able to trade with delivery and click and collect through a lot of sites during the lockdown but it was obviously still a fantastic lift to welcome all those customers and staff back.
“It’s been very busy, in a really good way, because there is a lot of love for the brand.
“Seasonally, we often do better in the cooler months, we think of that as ramen weather, but we’ve been really pleased by trading since May 17.”
The group said it has worked closely with the YoungMinds charity over the past year and wanted it to benefit from the new product range after seeing the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health.
Emma Thomas, chief executive officer of YoungMinds, said: “Our partnership with Wagamama has already been instrumental in helping us to reach more young people with advice, support and messages of hope and we are thrilled that Wagamama’s profits from this exciting new range will be donated to YoungMinds.
“This funding will be a huge help towards accelerating our work to make sure all young people get the support they need, when they need it, no matter what.”