Wagamama Coming To Forest Hill

I’ve had a leaflet through my letterbox today telling me that Wagamama are coming to Forest Hill and available on Deliveroo from 31st May. Does anyone know where that store will be? Will it be an actual restaurant or one of their “delivery kitchens”?

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Looks like a delivery kitchen on Malham Rd

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This is very exciting!

Oh my, my son has been missing wagamama so much! I’ve tried to do a version of Chicken Katsu Curry, but it’s just not the same! This will make his day!

This is great! Are you able to collect from these delivery hubs, or is it literally delivery only?

We got the Wagamama Deliveroo from their east dulwich dark kitchen. The food was delicious but the amount of plastic it came in - not recyclable - really put me off from ordering again.

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Having seen some of the “dark kitchens” I would be a little disquieted to order from them.

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Why? Surely a company like Wagamama would ensure their kitchen met a high hygiene standard.

I was very excited about the arrival of Wagamama but I’m not so sure now.

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I was more talking about the conditions the staff have to work in - portakabins with no windows and the impact on residents in terms of noise.

Dark kitches are little better than factories with staff doing a production line of different “restaurant” meals. Essentially in my view you are getting a ready meal with restaurant branding - like buying a Pizza Express pizza from Sainsbury’s. Which is fine if you understand that.

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Have you seen any evidence that this would describe a Wagamama kitchen or is this just guesswork?

I am talking about dark kitchens generally rather than Wagamama specifically.

The unit seems to be quite big, and is in an existing industrial estate, so I wouldn’t expect it to generate additional noise.

I would also expect the food to be made on-site, just like it is in the restaurants. Are you suggesting that multiple companies share the space, or that they just reheat food that has been made elsewhere?

People live near industrial estates in London and there have been a lot of complaints across the city about the negative impact of them, not least the constant noise from delivery drivers picking up orders.

Multiple companies share the site and the same staff cook the food for a number of different outlets. As I said, I am not saying there is anything wrong with the food but you are not getting food from a restaurant - which was kind of the original usp of Deliveroo.

Look, people can use what they like but my view there are significant negative externalities to the Deliveroo and dark kitchen business models.
Essentially we are asking other people to pay the price for our convenience, which is why I choose not use them (or indeed Amazon either).

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I used to work in a factory making pizzas for supermarkets. You are right that there are no windows, but that was by design, as were many of the features of the factory. There was no glass anywhere near the production line, and the whole place was air conditioned and under positive pressure to keep it clean and ensure no bugs could get in while also maximising freshness of the pizzas. The whole place was always slightly cool, while the warehouse was something like -5 or -10 (though there’s no humidity at that temperature so it doesn’t feel so cold, at first anyway).

Everyone would change into fresh clothes and boots when entering the factory, wash and sanitise their hands using foot or knee operated taps, and at the end of a day the whole place was washed down and scrubbed with near boiling water using fresh colour coded cloths to ensure cloths were not used on multiple days. Daily swabs were taken around the place and microbe counts plotted for all to see.

I’m not sure how many pizza’s were made and packaged a minute, but it was a lot, and they went to extreme lengths to keep everything clean. Eating anywhere in the factory got you the sack on the spot, even if the peppers and salami toppings looked tempting. I would guess that pizza factory was cleaner than most of our hospitals!

Of course the work was repetitive and boring, but not as bad as other (non-food) factories I worked at. And yes, we did put the same pizzas into different boxes according to the branding, though sometimes some lines varied the recipe.

Still, the restaurants operating these so called ‘dark kitchens’ won’t have had the luxury of time or investment to setup such purpose built places and standards could be a touch lower, but acceptably so and I guess they will each be inspected in due course. However, during lockdown this has literally been a lifeline for many of these businesses. And it’s provided some variety to our diets.

I think the Malham Road unit should provide enough space for them to make a purpose built kitchen with high standards, and Wagamama have a reputation to lose so I’d be very surprised if things slipped in any way - if you check the UK Food Hygiene Search Results for Wagamama, every restaurant has a 5 on scores on the doors (apart from Scotland where they have a different scheme).

The one thing that surprises me is that the prices aren’t less. Rental of the unit and staff must be considerably less compared to the restaurants. I guess you are paying for the brand.

Either way, while Wagamama isn’t exactly a local business, it’s bringing some employment and variety into the area, so personally I’m looking forward to it. I respect that your views may differ and that you choose not to use them.

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Don’t misunderstand me I am not questioning the hygiene of these places at all.

I more dislike the way the experience of eating out is reduced to a sanitised, convenient, click button experience by Deliveroo and other types of business like it - it further alienates us from our food and the people who make it.

On a different note I have not missed those mid market, incidental eating places in lockdown at all. I think places like Pret, Wagamama, Pizza Express etc… all produce good quality, well priced food and I, like lots of us, use them regularly. However to me their appeal was mostly one of location - a place to get a quick affordable meal when out doing something else.

I wouldn’t go to the effort of getting their food delivered to me

I understand where you are coming from now. There is no evidence that Wagamama employ these practices for their stand alone kitchens, as yet. I will certainly make sure I am more informed about this.

Personally I’ve missed Wagamama and similar “mid market” restaurants. I don’t eat fast food takeaways, such as McDonalds and KFC, so this is my fast food. It’s great to be able to finally mix chain restaurant meals with dining at independent locally owned restaurants. It brings some kind of pre-pandemic life back.

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Oh definitely. I very much enjoyed my Pret sandwich yesterday whilst out on a shopping trip!

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But the restaurant/chain pays hefty charges in sign up fees and then for every order processed to whichever company they sign up with. I’ve noticed the base price of dishes on the apps for a lot of our local restaurants are much higher than the base price in the actual restaurant. I presume they’re doing this to cover the fees they’re paying to Deliveroo/Just Eat/Uber Eats etc

The delivery firm fees surely can’t be as much as ground rent and staff salary in the restaurants though, can it?

Still, I guess I’ve overlooked that most of the businesses are still paying the rent and hoping to reopen, trying to make ends-meet with delivery on the meantime.

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I don’t know what the general mark up in restaurants is likely to be but I seem to remember reading somewhere recently that on average the delivery firms are charging the restaurants or takeaways around 30% of the value of every order, although the chains pay less because of the higher business volumes. But as you realised the restaurants still have their normal expenses although hopefully may have been able to obtain some government help…