Wagamama announces a 650-restaurant U.S. expansion

It's the week of Asian fast casual.

Hot on the heels of Chipotle announcing that it's opening an Asian fast-casual restaurant somewhere in America next year, Wagamama, the U.K.-based fast-casual noodle shop that's built a fervent global following, has revealed plans to open 650 outlets in the U.S.

Wagamama's mantra is "positive living + positive eating," and it focuses on selling wholesome food in sleek locations with fast service (by taking orders on PDA while guests wait in line, for instance). The menu is all pan-Asian offerings, which range from pickles to stir fry but are heavy on noodles, including many types of ramen, udon and soba.

Initially, Wagamama planned to break into the U.S. market in D.C., but pulled the plug earlier this year. The 90-restaurant chain currently has just three spots in this country, all in Boston. While no specific site details have been announced, the company has said that its expansion will focus heavily on the East Coast.

Chipotle has yet to release any details on its forthcoming Asian concept, beyond saying it has no specific plans to turn it into a chain. But it does seem safe to say that there are suddenly two big contenders in a wide-open segment of the U.S. fast-casual market.

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