2021: Year in Review

We look back at the highs and lows of the Australian multi-site restaurant industry these past twelve months.

Having survived lockdowns, including the world’s longest, this year has seen Australia’s quick service and fast casual restaurant industry being largely defined by how it has coped with restrictions and how it is informing them of ways to adapt their business models in succeeding years.

QSR Media’s Year In Review looks back at the most significant developments these past twelve months:

Omnichannel approach to customer experience

‘Omnichannel’ became even more of a larger buzzword across the industry when talking about elevating customer experiences. For chains, it was clear: strengthening dine-in, delivery and takeaway—and potentially even going beyond—is a no-brainer for planned growth.

Drive-thru: sweet spot or necessity

COVID-induced restrictions have led to the drive-thru channel becoming either a sweet spot or an unavoidable necessity for chains across markets. Locally, it even led to an emerging trend: in-car dining.

Future stores, flexible locations

The series of pandemic-related challenges also led to industry contemplating or exploring what the store of the future could look like. For more established brands, this meant more flexibility in formats.

Plant-based trend still on the rise

Chains continue to vie for a larger share of the growing plant-based market, creating items for flexitarians and vegetarians alike.

Golden milestones for fast food heavyweights

2021 was also a milestone year for McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s in Australia, both now operating for 50 years. Red Rooster, currently executing a brand transformation plan, is set to follow.

Younger brands, rising stars

The year also saw younger brands setting themselves up for growth, offering fresh approaches that rival more established brands.


A bigger appetite for virtual brands

The past twelve months also provided a spotlight for virtual brands or delivery-only concepts. Leaders from key brands offered varied takes on how to utilise such concepts and how it could fit an existing F&B portfolio.

Avoiding the ‘Great Resignation’ 

Staff shortages across industries also prompted chains to conduct their own hiring sprees, a trend also seen in other markets.

Strategic partnerships, unique activations

To remain on top of consumers’ minds, more chains turned to partnerships and unique activations.

More verticals for aggregators

Delivery platforms themselves are looking to explore more channels to apply their infrastructure and capitalise on growth. Earlier this year, a commission-free model was even introduced to challenge the aggregators.

Expansion still on the menu

Despite pains brought about by lockdowns, Australia is still on the menu for chains. Smaller players are also looking to kickstart growth through franchising models.

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