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The world’s largest udon chain chooses Harrison

Adapting the Japanese brand to its new UK market

Leading global strategic architecture and design consultancy, Harrison, is renowned for creating engaging brands and crafting rich stories to bring strategy, interiors, architecture, packaging and digital worlds to life. Over the past three decades, Harrison has built a deserved reputation for successfully translating brands to the UK market, including Nando’s (South Africa) and Chipotle (US).

This month, Marugame Udon, one of Japan’s biggest restaurant brands, and the world’s largest udon chain, opened its first European restaurant close to London Liverpool Street. Harrison was chosen by them to develop and translate their popular concept for the European market, having previously worked with the CEO Keith Bird on other brands. Harrison is currently working on a pipeline of seven further sites for Marugame across London. 

Harrison’s European design evolved from the Japanese version to be more contemporary, with an increased focus on brand storytelling, and the use of technology including an interactive LED screen with a live feed to the Marugame kitchen in Tokyo. The London restaurant has an open kitchen to showcase the theatre, an increased use of illustrations for storytelling, and a wide range of seating and dining styles. 

In the first 5 days of opening, the new Marugame restaurant achieved over 700 covers per day, increasing to over 1000 covers per day and two hour queues for the subsequent fortnight. As a result, sales are over 100% above what was expected.

Despite opening in the tail end of a pandemic, which hit the City particularly hard, Harrison attributes the success of the new Marugame restaurant to its relevance to the target market of 18-24 year olds - it’s cool, different, authentic and very favourably priced (half that of Wagamama’s). With a great team, fresh ingredients, beautiful design features and a strong, buzzy music profile, it offers an immersive concept. 

Kevin Grima, Creative Director at Harrison, comments, “Fresh, affordable Udon noodles and tempura are Japan’s favourite fast meal. Delicious, simple and nourishing, over decades they have developed into an important ritual of the daily routine across the country. Our purpose was to share this authentic, everyday Japanese ritual with a European market hungry for new Japanese favours and culture - where lives are busy and budgets are tight. The existing brand messaging was very product focused, and whilst it conveyed simplicity and speed it did not reveal Marugame’s unique ‘delight in the everyday’ ethos, and how the principles of Wabi Sabi underpin the philosophy. We believe that introducing an extra layer of brand narrative creates a more engaging, inspirational brand experience.”

Harrison’s remit for this project included, inter alia:

* Identifying brand pillars and values
* Identifying and analysing primary target customers
* Defining brand personality and essence
* Developing exterior signage
* Interior design
* Typographic development to relate to Japan, the product and the new brand narrative
* Illustration development/storytelling
* Developing emotive messaging
* Packaging & menu design       

About Harrison
Harrison is an award-winning, global strategic architecture and design consultancy renowned for creating successful new hospitality concepts, transforming existing brands and operations, and designing distinctive spaces that deliver memorable guest experiences. With offices in London, Birmingham, Dallas and Melbourne, Harrison has partnered with major global brands as well as local independent businesses to deliver 6,000+ projects. The company’s approach focuses on the guest journey; enhancing their experience through a unique storytelling process which differentiates brands from their competition. Harrison is built on a reputation for creativity, passion and vision which is expressed in the breadth of its extensive portfolio built over the last 31 years.