In Focus
RESEARCH | Kevin Santos, Australia

2018: Year in Review

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

From franchising woes to headline-making mergers, QSR Media's Year in Review looks at the biggest and some of the most-read stories of 2018. Here is our summary of the most significant events and trends in the quick service and fast casual restaurant industry this year.


Another tough year for franchising
It was another tough year for the country's franchising sector, which was further propelled to the spotlight following the launch of a parliamentary inquiry earlier this March due to the emergence of various allegations against larger retail networks. The results of the inquiry, initially expected this year, will be released on February 2019.


The continued rise of vegan and premium options
Up-and-coming brands and fast food giants alike are continuing to respond to the rising demand for vegan-friendly and premium options with their new offerings, similar to past years. Aside from Australia being the third fastest-growing market for veganism, one analyst we talked to says that operators embracing premium meals are projected to take more market share in the next five years.


Store milestones
Some brands celebrated significant store milestones during the year. After seven years, Soul Origin has reached the 100-store mark last September. Chatime, which entered Australia in 2009, reached the same number of stores two months later. And recently, Domino's opened their 700th store in the country.


New players in town
As some brands continue to expand in the country, the year also welcomed new players that are looking to diversify the restaurant space. April saw U.S.-based fast casual Jon Smith Subs announcing their intent to enter the country, whilst October caught a 'squid-centered' QSR looking to make a splash in Melbourne.


New look, new feel
Some brands, meanwhile, took the chance of updating themselves this year. Retail Food Group-owned Crust opted for a more modern look, Red Rooster wanted to have a "fun and cheeky" tone to their new in-store design, and family-owned chain Bubba Pizza - to borrow their own words - simply wanted to make it "better."


Joining the global sustainability movement 
The year also saw more brands joining the global sustainability movement. July saw McDonald’s Australia pledging to go plastic-free by 2020 and Craveable Brands phasing out single-use plastic bags. Smaller players like Grill'd, meanwhile, also ditched plastic straws altogether.


Companies placed under administration
The year also saw a select group of brands entering voluntary administration for various reasons, each with different fates. Franchise Retail Brands was the first one to do so 2018, which was then later followed by Zumbo Patisserie, foodora, and Max Brenner Australia. In contrast, we also saw brands like Doughnut Time making a comeback after liquidating.


Tech integration
Brands have continued to infuse technology into their services, further cementing it a a key and inevitable tool to enhance the customer experience. THR1VE and Oliver's Real Food made noise with their respective self-ordering kiosks, Menulog scored key partnerships with KFC and Hungry Jack's, and Domino's upped the ante on delivery by integrating augmented reality in their ordering app.


Strategic partnerships
The year also saw interesting partnerships within and outside the multi-site restaurant space. Eyeing global growth, Singapore's 4FINGERS announced last September that it bought a 50% stake in Australia-based Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill. Ribs & Burgers, meanwhile, continued its string of unique team ups by partnering with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to create a Deadpool-themed burger.


Sumo's plan to build a house of wellness brands
Last, but certainly not the least in our list is Sumo, who entered administration during the middle of the year only to bounce back and announce a headline-making merger with omni-channel THR1VE. CEO Luke Baylis says this move is their first step to create a house of wellness brands.

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