Wagamama has announced plans to reopen its dine-in operation using ingenious sliding screens to keep diners safe whilst maintaining an enjoyable experience.
The screens, inspired by Japanese partition designs, cleverly take advantage of the long wagamama bench designs to ensure safe dining.
The team at Wagamama used guest feedback to devise the sliding screens which sit on tiny rollers and can be moved up and down the full length of the benches discretely separating parties of guests from one another.
The ‘stay safe the wagamama way’ re-opening will allow customers to experience the restaurant making a feature of the restaurant’s iconic benches.
Wagamama will reopen four trial sites to test the safety and efficiency of the designs put in place to meet strict social distancing and increased hygiene measures.
The first restaurant to open will be at the Royal Festival Hall in central London on Saturday July 4 and will include a wide variety of innovative ideas to keep customers and team members safe. The first site will then be followed by three others at the Trafford Centre, Stevenage and Swindon from Monday July 6.
Other measures the restaurant is taking to ensure guests stay safe include social distancing queueing and disposable menus on placemats. The restaurant will also now be cashless, providing a simple pay on phone mechanic at the end of the meal, which minimises staff contact and adheres to the Government’s request of taking the name and phone number of at least one person in the group visiting the restaurant.
If these initial test and learn sites prove successful for both customers and staff Wagamama plans to have 18 restaurants open by the end of July and then a staged plan will hopefully see all restaurants open by early September.
The return to dine-in has been guided by a survey of Wagamama customers, which asked what was important to them when considering reopening restaurants. Safety, whilst maintaining the much loved ability to sit on our benches within the restaurant came back as key messages.
During the first days and weeks of reopening guests will also be asked to give feedback so that they are constantly learning and improving.
Design Director Mark Standing said, “Sliding screens (shoji) are at the very heart of the Japanese architectural aesthetic. They have been used for hundreds of years to divide spaces in buildings and rooms. I took my inspiration for the design of screen dividers for our long sharing tables and benches from this tradition”.
CEO Emma Woods said, “The main question we have been working on as a team is how can our guests feel safe but still have a communal wagamama experience, sitting on our benches. The team have applied our philosophy of kaizen - good change - to this challenge and I am delighted we have found a design solution which provides social distancing for our guests in a way which is true to the design ethos of the brand.
“We are looking forward to getting our guests back in and obtaining their feedback in the first 18 sites. If these tests go well, we will reopen the remainder of our restaurants throughout August and September.”