Wednesday, January 24, 2024

[EXCLUSIVE] Short-Lived Restaurant Says Sayonara to Star Metals

Wagamama, which made its Atlanta during the summer of 2022, has closed.  The Asian restaurant, located in West Midtown at 1050 Howell Mill Road in the Star Metals development, was an import from London and seemingly never gained a following in metro Atlanta.  The restaurant reportedly quietly closed last week, later displaying signage that the closure was due to "technical difficulties."  

Despite the signage suggesting that the closure was only temporary, the restaurant's bar seemed to have been cleared of all alcohol, a telltale sign of a permanent closure.  A manager at an out of state location confirmed that the Atlanta closure was permanent.  

The Japanese-focused restaurant's menu featured a wide variety of big plates, shareables, wraps and desserts.  Classic ramen and teppanyaki dishes as well as various wraps, bao and dumplings were also offered.

Wagamama however likely suffered from several factors including lack of local awareness, poor (and expensive) parking and an influx of both multi-unit and local concepts in West Midtown.  

That said, popular salad spot Sweetgreen continues operate in the project with trendy donut joint The Salty slated to open its third Atlanta area location a couple of doors down soon.  

ToNeTo Atlanta exclusively announced in 2021 that London-based Wagamama had leased the roughly 3,600 square foot space at the corner of 11th Street and Howell Mill Road.  The new Star Metals outpost was Wagamama's first location in Atlanta and just its seventh location stateside.     

The company opened new locations in Tampa last February and in Dallas last month.  

Established in London in 1992, Wagamama has today grown to nearly 200 locations worldwide, the majority of which are in the U.K.  The Restaurant Group (TRG), a London-based, publicly traded hospitality company (OTCMKTS: RSTGF), was the company's most recent owner, but this past October it was acquired by Apollo Global Management, a huge private equity firm, in a deal valued at $623 million. 

In the U.S, Wagamama's presence includes three locations in New York, two in Boston and one in Tampa-which opened this past February-and another in Dallas which debuted this last month.  A new location was planned for Arlington, Virginia in early 2022, but after subsequently saying in early 2023 that it would open by "summer" [of 2023], it has yet to open.  If the Arlington location does not open, it would mark the second ill-fated attempt by the chain to penetrate the greater D.C. market.  Back in 2009, the chain announced it was moving into a large space in D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood.  Three years later, Wagamama canceled its plans.  

Wagamama USA was a joint venture (JV) partnership between TRG and Conversion Venture Capital, a firm formed by Punch Bowl Social veterans Robert Cornog and Richard Flaherty.  The duo in 2020 acquired an 80 per cent stake in the U.S. business with TRG retaining the remaining 20 per cent.    

Did you ever eat at Wagamama?   Why do you think Wagamama failed in Atlanta? What is your favorite current or upcoming Westside restaurant? 

Please share your thoughts below.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ate there once over a year ago and were the only people in there at noon on a Saturday

Anonymous said...

That’s too bad. Wagamama is legit.

Anonymous said...

technical difficulties...

Anonymous said...

Ate here once and it was just off. I can tell the restaurant concept could be good, it was just executed poorly here. Our service was terrible and the food was prepared with what seemed like little care.

Anonymous said...

I ate here a few times but I always ordered takeout. Sad to see them closed.

bofdem said...

Very excited to eat there once with my family.
We were first on a holiday/no school day but it filled up after us.
Drinks were good, food was similar - if not exact - to London, but service was meh. We scored street parking, but there was a pile of window glass on the street next to my spot.

Presume the only reason for Atlanta was the Punch Bowl connection (could be wrong), and it was in an awkward location.

Anonymous said...

If Northside Tavern ever closes then Atlanta is officially dead to me

Anonymous said...

Ate here and the food was hit or miss as was the service. Some food and drinks were great, others not so much. Wasn’t good enough to return.with all the other options out there.

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