Wagamama is a remarkable chain of noodle restaurants. I really love eating there. I must say, it’s a unique experience.

While eating there last Sunday, I came up with some ideas on how could the brand take a huge step, using social networks. I also checked their website and, to my surprise, I realised that they are not using social media yet. So, what’s the big deal?

Let’s start first by having a look at their current situation:

  • The website looks OK but it’s not integrated with social tools
  • They have recently released a cool iPhone app
  • Only a few Wagamama restaurants in Australia and New Zealand are trying Twitter
  • There’s a Wagamama Facebook page with over 30,000 fans. Believe it or not, that’s abandoned. They only made one post back in March 2008 🙁

Here we go with some cool ideas…

The food

You can tell that people have fun when they eat there. Wagamama’s food is at the centre of the story, however, those of you that went to the restaurant will realise that they have sort of an open kitchen where you see all the cooks performing their art.

My first question was: why does this brand not have a YouTube channel? So the idea consists on placing a few flat screens above the kitchen bar and show live all the cool stuff that’s going on in the Woks. Also, I was impressed to see all the videos that customers shoot inside the restaurant!

The staff

There’s no doubt that the cooks and waiting staff are heroes in this play. You have to see the orchestration and great service that these folks deliver. So far they are not being featured but they could make into the YouTube channel and FlickR photo album of the brand in the following way:

  • Cooks can present daily of weekly, the “dish of the day” and show how they look to drive more people insane about Asian food.
  • Waiters can introduce themselves and feature some team-building activities (I perceive a great team spirit when I’m there)
  • Why not having a cook and waiter/tress of the month and feature them like a movie star?
  • Cooks can do short videos featuring themselves as well and include the links on the Wagamama Cookbook!

The conversation

There’s a lot going on here that the brand is not capitalising on. It’s very simple to spot great conversation and loads of compliments in platforms such as Twitter and Facebook (Go to their search bars and type the word “Wagamama”). Is it worth as a brand to talk with your audience? You bet.

The Placemats

First thing you see when you sit at the table are this paper place-mats. Also, waiters your them to write down your dish numbers. As you see there’s no signs of social media here so the idea would be to invite their audience to engage and participate. For example they could include all special offers/dishes of the week and include a hashtag to each so people can spread the word about it and later on would be a lot simpler to track it. Hashtags are great to spark conversations. They generate a lot of curiosity sometimes.

The location

This is an obvious one, however, Wagamama are not using geolocation either. By embracing Facebook Places (especially now that Facebook are testing Popular Places) and at least Foursquare they could really connect with those checking-in ( real time as well) and why not offer special deals. My idea was to include a screen dedicated to check-ins and see them all coming as a waterfall.

These are some simple ideas that came to my head in a 25-minute lunch. Imagine all the great ideas that Wagamama customers could come up with in general… Huge opportunity for the brand.

What ideas would you add?

09/11/10 Update: It’s nice to see that this blog post took Wagamama’s conversation to the peak of the month 🙂

Comments ( 21 )
  • Channelship says:

    Comment by Casper Gornior in the LinkedIn Group: UK Marketing Lounge.

    “What’s crucial is that Wagamama is on the key places on the web, where their core audiences are. Whether it be online newspapers and magazine, forums, the usual suspects: facebook/youtube etc. and then drive people to their website.

    But, with so much “clutter” they need to build a credible, creative theme / hook / sponsorship that stops internet users in their tracks.

    They also need to understand the decision-making process for eating out. How many occasions are instant and use mobile marketing, like Starbucks partnership with O2), or whether getting brand ambassadors and influencers to spread the word (bloggers etc.) to influence people over a medium to long-term will work more effectively. “

  • Fred says:

    Brilliant comment Casper!
    I would have Wagamama start by focusing on the theme. It would be the fuel that would spark the rest of the ideas on how to stop and chat with people, especially online 🙂
    They are so busy getting the business that obviously, building a lond lasting brand online and nurturing their reputation in that space are not clearly a priority.
    As Seth Godin would say, they have certainly built a Purple Cow and they’ve been milking it very successfully. It will not last forever. How/when will they innovate?

  • Jean-Paul says:

    Hi Fred, great post, I love Wagamama.

    Agree with Casper on identifying where their audience is online and understanding the decision making process first.

    One of the key messages they try to get across is positive eating & positive living. This seems to be an obvious place to start and everyone I hear talk about Wagamama’s, refers to it as tasty healthy food. So not only is this the message they want to promote, but consumers are actually saying it. Definitely they can do more to leverage these comments socially.

    The facebook page for example, as you say has over 30,000 fans, seemingly without any engagement. This is definitely a wasted opportunity to promote their positive eating & positive living ethos, and allow other lovers of Wagamama to share their thoughts.

    On Caspers point about brand ambassadors, I know KFC managed to find bloggers (who called themselves the Kentucky Fried Bloggers I believe) who constantly blogged about how much they loved KFC, any new products etc. These bloggers weren’t on the pay role, they were genuine people who KFC happened to stumble across. I wonder if there are any Wagamama fans out there doing something similar who can be promoted a bit more on their website, facebook page etc.

    I think there is a lot they could do to embrace social media with a competition element as well. If they had a YouTube Channel, they could promote competitions in store, for example encouraging consumers to video cooking their own dishes from the Wagamama cook book, and posting videos of it to the You Tube channel.

    Actual Wagamama chefs (a different one every week or month) could then review the dishes and vote on the best one. Similar to how on ‘Something for the Weekend’ Sundays on BBC2 viewers send in photo’s of their own versions of the chef’s dishes.

    The winner could receive a free meal or something, and maybe even a short video clip could be made of the Wagamama chef announcing the winner. I’m sure winners would love that and forward it socially to all their friends.

    Geolocation is another element massively underused by the food services industry I think. I use Foursquare quite a bit and every Wagamama I come across has a Mayor so there are definitely people checking in regularly to their venues, the majority seem to have positive things to say.

    Weatherspoons runs Foursquare promotions at every venue from what I can tell (in London at least) to tap this audience (who often link their Foursquare account to other social media such as Facebook or Twitter) so I’m sure many Food chains could do the same. The Foursquare business suite, http://foursquare.com/businesses I’m sure could also provide useful intelligence.

    Just a couple of thoughts, hope they are useful.

    Jean-Paul Smalls

  • Fred says:

    Thanks Jean-Paul! Super comment!
    To be honest, they have so much cool stuff going on when you walk into the restaurant that for anybody that understands a bit social media, it becomes a waterfall of ideas immediately.

    I really liked what you shared about KFC. Very unique way to spread quality word-of-mouth from passionate experts. I bet that could easily work with a restaurant like Wagamama.

    Also, while I was writing the post, I constantly thought: “how come they did not define a name for their tribe?”. I guess the obvious would be: “Wagamamers”?

  • Eoin says:

    Fred this is a great blogpost. Inspirational! Keep them coming.
    Eoin

  • Fred says:

    Thanks man! Spread the love on Twitter/Facebook 🙂

  • Channelship says:

    Comment by Ruth McPartlin on the LInkedIn Group: AdTech London

    “I’m blown away by Groupon. When I reviewed some restaurant offers, for example in the SF Bay Area and New York, those that did offers that required threshholds (deal on) of a few thousand, would have been resulting in revenue of in some cases 50k. I’m not sure what the revenue share is with Groupon and I know you need to plan this carefully as you get one shot a year, but for the hospitality trade, i think this could be a winner “

  • Fred says:

    Ruth, that’s a great point! I’m a regular Groupon customer here in London and I can tell sometimes, it’s addictive. Groupon could be a big winner too!

  • Graceappforautism says:

    I gave them a business card 6 months suggesting that I advise them for free as we have been very happy customers for over ten years!
    I think the key is to build a following on Twitter to regularly link to spot specials with a tweet code, or link to Facebook page to save and show. They have wifi open now so Smart phone owners have good reason to eat there regularly.
    Twitter would really pay during slow times when they are overstaffed. The place loses it’s vibe completely, staff and kitchen get sloppy (sorry guys but our worst experiences with quality are when it’s slow)
    Get a tweet code- one main or entree free with every meal to encourage doubles. Get it out there for retweet with a time limit.
    Sure they are paying staff a minimum at these times, might as well give food away and get the covers in, to keep the place ticking over.
    These spot specials could involve customers being asked to tweet and twit pic their meals and show them for another freebie, like a glass of wine or dessert. The manager should come down to the table to say thank you after seeing these – use a hashtag and search column.
    Twitter has a lot of inner city and nearby commuters- people who could turn up at ten minutes notice if encouraged. And # “FoodPorn” always gets great feedback from other tweeters.
    That’s my opinion. And I would still come in happily and school them for a day, free!

  • lisamareedom says:

    I gave them a business card 6 months suggesting that I advise them for free as we have been very happy customers for over ten years!
    I think the key is to build a following on Twitter to regularly link to spot specials with a tweet code, or link to Facebook page to save and show. They have wifi open now so Smart phone owners have good reason to eat there regularly.
    Twitter would really pay during slow times when they are overstaffed. The place loses it’s vibe completely, staff and kitchen get sloppy (sorry guys but our worst experiences with quality are when it’s slow)
    Get a tweet code- one main or entree free with every meal to encourage doubles. Get it out there for retweet with a time limit.
    Sure they are paying staff a minimum at these times, might as well give food away and get the covers in, to keep the place ticking over.
    These spot specials could involve customers being asked to tweet and twit pic their meals and show them for another freebie, like a glass of wine or dessert. The manager should come down to the table to say thank you after seeing these – use a hashtag and search column.
    Twitter has a lot of inner city and nearby commuters- people who could turn up at ten minutes notice if encouraged. And # “FoodPorn” always gets great feedback from other tweeters.
    That’s my opinion. And I would still come in happily and school them for a day, free!

  • Sayo Martin says:

    I agree. The name is so unique that I would totally see their customers proudly calling themselves Wagamamers online and offline — they could build their own tribe/club. That tribe could be the primary go-to ambassadors. Empowering them with social media tools would be beneficial.

  • Fred says:

    Thanks for the comment Lisa.
    Those are good ideas. From my angle, what I see is that they actually really get the people through the door. Business is not a problem. Based on that I wouldn’t prioritise specials and promotions but instead, building their brand and reputation online around their theme and special, healthy food (the YouTube channel idea, featuring the staff and as Jean-Paul mentioned, having the tribe passionate about their food blog about it: all these would contribute to having a solid image in the online space)

  • Andrew says:

    What about the practicalities and realities of managing their social campaigns?

    It’s very easy to say what a company or organisation should be doing in the social space and how “cool” their weekly dish youtube video is or their constantly updated twitter or facebook page reflects their global and local initiatives…..

    I’m totally behind doing social business, however in a sector like the food industry that is seriously hit already by dropping customers the time spent on doing these kind of things within their own employee base might be something of an issue for them. Of course , if they are offering better offers to get more customers to local restuarants then it will help them….however what is their path to doing this….

    So they can drive it themselves or they employee ( costs ? ) people to do this for them.

    Either way, I think its still very much the case that traditional marketing in alot of cases is still being seen as the way to more immediate and statistically successful returns.

    Maybe the area of social software needs a more traditional approach to looking at itself when it comes to businesses and how we deal them.

  • Fred says:

    Hi Andrew. Thanks for the comment.

    I’m a bit confused. This not about “social software” at all, nor doing social media to get them more customers. Based on my experience they are busy and getting the business through the door 🙂

    The point it: reputation and authority. Since there’s so much good stuff going on in these restaurants and the brand conveys a cool message that many people adopt, the goal is for Wagamama to join that “tribe” and together keep on building the brand in the online space.

    Going back to my original point, if you experienced Wagamama, see how their customers feel and finally check their website, it makes no sense that they are not interested in joining social media. It goes beyond setting them up with a Twitter and Facebook account… anybody can do that

  • Andrew says:

    I have to say I dont’ agree with that. It is totally to do with social software , wihch i mean by Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, FourSquare…the list goes on….they can engage all they want to build their brand on these sites/services but at the end of the day the time they spend on joining a “tribe” as you put it has no definitive returns. Thats why I was saying that the task of getting social metrics of how it affects a business are not known and not easy to calculate or understand.

    So my point was that their time is elsewhere where they know they can have an impact. This is of course my opinion…but the fact is …they are not using the social space they way they could….yet they are still making an impact…..

    I for one love their food. If you feel like you are going to their Facebook page and clicking a Like button is going to give a fuzzier feeling when you eat their food and that you feel like you are more part of the experience they create that is something very different …. and a bit Borg like 😉

  • Fred says:

    I understand where you are coming from Andrew. We’re simply both viewing the story form two different perspectives. You’re seeing it from a more technical and objective perspective and not me. No point in discussing further. The moment you say that this is behaving like a robot: “If you feel like you are going to their Facebook page and clicking a Like button is going to give a fuzzier feeling when you eat their food and that you feel like you are more part of the experience” you’re missing the point about brands and social media. Again, two different perspectives therefore appreciations 🙂

  • Andrew says:

    I am definitely on the side of social media and I think it has a huge part to play now and in the future. The point I am making is about behaving like a robot, which is wrong way of putting it on my part , is the lack of incentives to press to the Like button as an example but pressing it all the same. I think the area of social media and doing social business is so immature at present that I think the shift to what works more effectively for both consumer and business is what will win in the end. It may be something very simple and something totally different but I do not think we are seeing it now.

    I also don’t want to bring too technical a perspective to this as their is of course alot more to brand awareness and the social sphere than metrics etc , but rather about the inclusion , participation and collaboration !

    Let me take back the borg comment and press the Like button on your comment. 😉

  • Fred says:

    I understand what you mean about doing social business in an “immature way”. I wouldn’t call it like that but it’s true. The thing is that that are many agencies and brand that have the freedom to really enjoy testing social media (Many bing brands actually do this very successfully such as Nokia and Cisco and that’s why then, they become pioneers and open new trends) These practices could be seen as “immature” but they are actually not.
    Back the to original point of the post:
    We have a brand that thousands of people love. We have a company that made something remarkable. Since 2005, there’re clearly new ways in which brands and consumers engage and build relationships.
    All I’m saying is that the brand should acknowledge them and join the tribe and not stay on the other side of the counter. Then I came up with some ideas of what I would do.
    If Wagamama decide to join, yes it will take time even with the best social software and yes, they’ll still make mistakes. It’s worth it.

  • Paula Ronan says:

    Hi Fred, Just a quick thought – Wagamma is great, but one aspect of the eating experience which is sometimes offputting is having to sit close to other people and mingle, esp if you’re on your own or there’s just two of you. There may be an opportunity to turn this to their advantage using foursquare / facebook to check where there are other people in ones or twos or even threes who activiely whant to share and you can be comfortable plonking down beside and able to start a conversation with more easily.
    Sin é! Cheers, Paula

  • Fred says:

    That’s a good idea Paula but I in that case, another restaurant would be a better way to go.
    While I was writing the post, actually some bad points came to my head such as, “It’s very noisy and you’re too close to other people”. However that’s what make it remarkable: it’s different. It also makes it unique because it serves the purpose of having a tasty bite on the go (for example I always go there before the cinema)
    If I wanted more space or less noise I would simply choose another restaurant that offers that experience instead… but that’s me 🙂

  • Derbhile says:

    Yet another good reason to eat out – it gives you ideas for generating more revenue, for you and for them.

The comments are now closed.