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.
- McDonald’s Australia wants to be the benchmark in customer experience
- How Krispy Kreme's unique omnichannel experience set them up for future growth
- TGI Fridays ups the ante on premium store experiences to capitalise on dine-in’s expected resurgence
- From rebuilding to reinforced: How Pizza Hut's customer experience mantra led them to double-digit growth
- Amid digital evolution, 7-Eleven is thinking more about store formats to dish post-COVID convenience
- Roll’d banks on stronger omnichannel arsenal, branding as it readies for international expansion
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.
- ‘A game changer’: how the drive-thru is fueling Guzman y Gomez’s path to be a global fast food brand
- Hungry Jack’s bets on suburban locations, drive-thru coffee to fuel its race to 700 restaurants
- RFG bets on drive-thrus, mobile vans to offset lingering shopping centre pains
- A la car(te): Drive-thru fuels in-car dining trend
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.
- Subway is adding non-traditional locations to its brand transformation mix
- Zambrero finds “future-proof” longevity in flexible locations
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.
- Crust vies for bigger bite of flexitarian market with new plant-based menu
- Muffin Break adds oat to plant-based milk range
- Grill’d teams up with Heston Blumenthal, Fable to dish out plant-based burgers
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.
- Refusing to be left behind, Red Rooster is determined to go beyond its roast chicken heritage
- McDonald’s Australia kickstarts 50th anniversary celebrations with 50c Big Macs
- Hungry Jack's brings back the Yumbo to mark 50th anniversary
Younger brands, rising stars
The year also saw younger brands setting themselves up for growth, offering fresh approaches that rival more established brands.
- ‘We are the trend’: Pretzel’s founder counts on brand’s ethos, cult following to puff up growth hopes
- Five years in, Fishbowl is determined to create a ecosystem of healthy fast food
- This concept is looking to lead the country’s “untapped” chicken wings segment
- Australia’s first carbon-neutral restaurant secures future growth by testing sustainable strategies in established locations
- The Yiros Shop is getting ready to be the country’s largest Greek fast food chain
- Milky Lane is building from its social media power to enter the QSR segment
- This fast casual brand has a mission to mainstream Jamaican jerk chicken in Australia
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.
- Minor DKL is gearing up to be a leader in the virtual brand space
- Virtual brand companies offering solutions to Australian chains to increase, Concept Eight boss says
- Nearly ten years in, Sushi Izu seeks to reclaim momentum to go beyond its supermarket footprint
Avoiding the ‘Great Resignation’
Staff shortages across industries also prompted chains to conduct their own hiring sprees, a trend also seen in other markets.
- Domino’s seeking 7,000-plus staff in latest hiring spree
- Guzman y Gomez offers over 4,200 jobs
- McDonald’s hiring 11,000-plus employees in latest recruitment drive
- Can Australia’s QSRs avoid ‘The Great Resignation’?
Strategic partnerships, unique activations
To remain on top of consumers’ minds, more chains turned to partnerships and unique activations.
- Subway announces partnership with ad agency Publicis Groupe
- Hungry Jack’s inks four-year sponsorship deal with Adelaide Crows
- McDonald's inks 10-year partnership extension with AFL
- KFC releases limited edition Christmas in July jumpers, bundle
- McDonald’s teams up with Peter Alexander for sleepwear collection
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.
- “A new era of convenience”: how delivery platforms are doubling down on new verticals, wider coverage to capitalise on projected growth
- With a commission-free model, Kneaded looks to challenge the delivery status quo
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.
- Korean fried chicken chain Bonchon to make Australian debut
- Philippines’ Potato Corner bakes Australian entry
- Papa John's sees a path forward to enter Australia's delivery-centric pizza scene
- Wahlburgers’ first Australian restaurant to open in Sydney’s Circular Quay
- Camy’s Chargrill Chicken kickstarts franchising plan
- Red Sparrow Pizza eyes expansion over next two years