In Focus
FAST CASUAL | Staff Reporter, Australia
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How the QSR Landscape is changing, leading QSR CEO's discuss the future of the industry

SumoSalad, Foodco and Mad Mex executives talk about the evolution of shopping centres, the rise of international cuisines, and the challenge of reinventing and achieving ROI at the QSR Media Detpak Conference & Awards held last July 22.

"We are seeing a lot of the shopping centres look at food as a key point of differentiation," Luke Baylis, Chief Executive Officer of SumoSalad told the audience. "The food court environment is outdated and shopping centres want to create little fragmented precincts throughout the [area] where people can have a better experience and interaction with food. The food court is becoming obsolete."

A huge trend he noted the industry is undergoing is international cuisine slowly becoming more mainstream, pointing to Mexican, Greek and Vietnamese cuisine that are becoming popular; Adding that Middle Eastern might have the next big run. "We're seeing a lot of international food evolve, become more mainstream and become household names," he noted.

Serge Infanti, Managing Director of Foodco (operators of Jamaica Blue, Muffin Break & Dreamy Donuts) agreed that there is a change in the footfall in the malls that they have participated in. "The food courts we know are dinosaurs. [Shopping centres] want a greater range of grazing options throughout the shopping experience and this has put a lot of changes to how retailers respond."

He is predicting that kiosks won't be as prevalent in the future and that everyone in the industry will need to re-engineer to offer a more elevated experience. "This comes in not only in product but also aesthetics," he added.

"Whilst the challenge of reinventing and renovating is required more than ever the need to maintain an acceptable ROI is paramount. Lessor continue to push retailers into expensive refits and in particular on renewals without assisting with compensation or rental and without maintaining control on usage. This can lead to poor investment decisions unless a balance is achieved on ROI."

"Design and consumer experience is becoming a lot more competitive, moving at the rate of knots," Baylis shared. "If you look back five years at how restaurants looked, a lot of designs now has evolved significantly, we're seeing a lot more work, lot more investment going into the design enhancement of space that people occupy."

Meanwhile, another trend the panel is seeing is the focus on health.

"We see health being more mainstream," Baylis said. Health is starting to bleed across all areas of food, he noted, mentioning the likes of fast food KFC who are making an effort to put out out a healthy message.

Meanwhile, Clovis Young, Chief Executive Officer & Founder of Mad Mex pointed to McDonald's most recent efforts with the launch of its Create Your Taste campaign now being rolled out to all stores, where consumers can create their own gourmet burger.

"Everyone has to elevate their game," he said, "If you think about what fast casual meant 5 years ago, there was a very clear differentiation between fast food and next step up. That step up has been blurred in the past 24 months and that's the biggest trend in this space."

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