Wagamama revealed on Monday that its chief executive Emma Woods plans to step down as after nearly three years in the role.
Woods is set to step down on June 1 and hand over the reins at the chain to internal successor, Thomas Heier, and will stay on as an adviser as the inaugural member of the group’s new brand board.
The experienced executive, who took the top job in 2018 when the noodle purveyor was acquired by The Restaurant Group (TRG), said: “It has been an honour to lead the Wagamama business through the last tumultuous years but, as the business emerges from the pandemic and starts an exciting new chapter, it feels the right time to hand on the chopsticks to someone I know loves the brand as much as I do.”
Woods is set to take on extra responsibilities next month as senior independent director and chairwoman of the remuneration committee at listed fitness giant The Gym Group, where she has been a non-executive director since 2016.
Heier has been with the chain - which was founded in Bloomsbury in 1992 and now has around 150 UK sites - since 2017 and is currently Chief Experience Officer - heading up marketing, insight and customer experience operations.
TRG boss, Andy Hornby, said: “The excellent performance of Wagamama under Emma’s leadership speaks for itself.
“Over the last three years Wagamama has constantly outperformed the market, improved our customer perception scores and shown continual innovation especially around food quality.”
He added: “Thomas has played a pivotal role in the success of Wagamama as part of Emma’s team and is extremely well qualified to take us forwards.”
TRG, which is also behind the Frankie and Benny's chain, announced in early March that it had secured new financing to see it through the pandemic.
It said in a trading update on March 1 that it secured £500 million in new debt facilities.
The firm, which has slashed 3000 jobs and permanently closed 125 sites since the pandemic hit, said its net debt was around £340 million at the end of 2020.