Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Steve Hill, Wagamama
Overall ranking: 60 (NEW ENTRY)
Restaurant ranking: 20 (NEW ENTRY)
Steve Hill - Snapshot
Steve Hill is the chief executive of Wagamama, a role he's held for five years. From an initial central London basement site opened in 1992, the pan-Asian noodle bar gas expanded to more than 70 UK sites, as well as more than 35 franchised sites overseas.
In March, venture capital firm Duke Street acquired the Wagamama business from investment firm Lion Capital for an estimated £215m. With Hill remaining at the helm as chief exec, and Martin Robinson appointed chairman, expansion of the Wagamama brand has been stepped up, with plans for around 20 UK openings a year and more international outlets.
Steven Hill - Career guide
Hill's background is in corporate finance, insolvency and retail, where he worked for more than a decade before entering the restaurant business in 1996, when he joined Pizza Express.
Hill was part of the team, led by serial casual dining entrepreneur Ian Neill, which drove Wagamama's growth following the buyout of the business from founder Alan Yau. Hill became chief executive of Wagamama in 2006.
Steven Hill - What we think
When Ian Neill stepped down as chairman of Wagamama in March, it was undoubtedly the end of a chapter in the history of the business. Over 15 years Neill steered the brand from an interesting, if niche take on the UK's perennial love of Asian food, to a mainstream brand on the brink of going global.
Neill made it very clear he believes the business has new chapters to write, saying: "Steve Hill has been chief executive for the past five years and the company's current success is on his watch and down to him, so I leave with the knowledge that Wagamama is in great shape with an outstanding leader."
The team that grew Wagamama spotted the appeal of innovative blend of healthy Oriental cuisine served in a minimalist hi-tech setting. The brand was praised as "an extremely attractive, sexy thing" and "classless and accessible" by the judges of the 2001 Cateys.
Demonstrating its grasp of the issues of concern to its urban clientele, in 2008 it was one of the first restaurant brands to offer transparency on the way tips were distributed to staff. It was also one of the first to use hand-held personal digital assistants to take orders and became the first hospitality operator to launch an iPhone ordering app.
In 2008 the noodle chain picked up the Evolution trophy at the Peach Factory awards for already-established businesses that continue to evolve successfully.
Hill has always seen strong expansion opportunities for the brand and with the new owner on board and finance in place, the talk is now of 300 UK outlets - a target it would reach in under a decade at the current growth rate.