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At wagamama, service is smiles better

The Japanese-inspired, pan-Asian restaurant gives staff training a whole new flavour with game-based sessions which make a big impact on employees and customers…


In every single delicious dish at wagamama there is a secret ingredient you won’t find on any list of special dietary requirements.

It’s the magic additive that makes a meal into a memorable event. It doesn’t cost an extra penny on the bill or another calorie on the count.

It’s a simple smile, and it’s what wagamama strives to add to every plate.

Of course, it’s not easy to replicate that natural warmth and care across a popular fast-growing group of restaurants – 150-plus and counting.

It helps to hire great people. But it is even more crucial to invest in the development of great people.


Hospitality – a career, not just a job

According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), 69% of employees are more likely to stay for three years if they experience great onboarding.

It is this investment that could help answer the challenge that many potential recruits see hospitality as a stop-gap, not their future.

After all, a study by researcher group KAM found that just one-in-five UK adults consider hospitality to be an appealing industry; 23% see it as a short-term step on the way someplace else. Only 10% view it as a well-respected career. says that 95% of school leavers aren’t considering a career in the sector.

That’s a lot of inertia to overcome – and it’s that perception of hospitality as an unappetising choice that game-based learning tackles.


Serving up training that drives development

Holly Cameron, wagamama’s learning design lead, said: ‘The key is to make sure development opportunities are within their grasp. Make it look like an attractive choice.’

For Steve Mangleshot, global executive chef and brand ambassador, it means developing people as much as answering a business need.

He said: ‘If they do two years and they go somewhere else and we taught them something then fantastic. Because hopefully we’re creating the chefs that go into Michelin star places. They’re going to go and work with Gordon Ramsay or Jason Atherton – they’re going to be the next chefs who are opening their own restaurants.

‘To do that we need top chefs – and the best environment, the best ingredients and the best training so they stay with us.’


Learning that doesn’t feel like learning

They found it with game-based training – creatively named The Noodleversity – which delivers consistent, memorable training that allows talent to thrive. The bite-sized simulations are available in computer game-style scenarios, where people play through situations they encounter at work.

Cameron said that game-based learning is a vital component in building happy teams that stay together.

‘Attensi is just so much fun,’ she said.

‘It doesn’t feel like learning. It just feels like they’re playing games, but actually secretly we’ve got learning in there!

‘We’ve seen a massive impact. A lot of teams started by answering questions and getting about 50% right. They kept playing and playing and their best scores in the end were around 93% – a massive increase.’

It ensures that staff learn their roles really quickly and feel at home and happy with their team so they want to stay.

Crucially, the training delivers the consistency that wagamama needs across its estate, every day, for every customer.

That’s not easy when you consider the scale of its operation. To mention just one item on its menu – wagamama serves 70-80,000 katsu curries a week, and they make 30 tonnes of katsu curry sauce every week.


Game-based training helps staff and customers find their happy place

Mangleshot paints a picture of hospitality as an exciting, fast-changing industry – and great training brings it to life.

‘Food is a moving, living thing,’ he said. ‘We change our menus twice a year, which is quite exceptional.

‘We need to reinvigorate our staff and give starters something to learn. Give them a skill, they’re more likely to stay. Skill makes them feel a part of a team, a group, and you’ve won.

‘To bring in a training system that the guys were so up for was amazing.

‘Without doubt Attensi creates something that we wouldn’t do without now.’

It’s also the recipe which means that every customer leaves every wagamama happy and with a smile on their lips.



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