In Focus
RESEARCH | Kevin Santos, Australia

2020: Year In Review

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

To say that 2020 has been an unprecedented year for Australian quick service and fast casual restaurant industry is, arguably, an understatement. We bring to you the latest edition of QSR Media's Year in Review, a summary of the top themes we have seen this year.

COVID-19: the great accelerator
Without a doubt, the impact of COVID-19 has reshaped how the QSR and fast casual industries across the world have been doing business, with most brand leaders in Australia commonly observing how it accelerated digital transformations. Some chains in particular have reaped the rewards of going digital earlier compared to those forced to pivot.

Delivery becoming a necessity overnight
Having a multi-channel approach became vital for brands to remain relevant during the height of the restrictions. Delivery via third-party platforms or one’s own network of riders, became a necessity overnight.

A growing appetite for off-premise
Aside from delivery, other off-premise channels such as takeaway, click-and-collect became part of the new normal. DIY kits and the establishment of e-commerce sites also surfaced as trends as more customers stayed at home.

A larger bet on drive-thrus
Restaurant chains are also placing their bets on drive-thru as they look forward to a post-pandemic future. Chains who had drive-thru even before the coronavirus restrictions saw growth in the channel.

Towards touchless, personalised experiences
Consumers have continued to embrace contactless experiences in the name of health, safety and social distancing, an observation commonly shared within the industry. During the year, more chains have offered deals inside their apps to incentivise its use, with some eyeing more personalised or targeted means to engage. QR codes, once tagged as ‘clunky’, have also made their way to the top of restaurants’ digital checklists, along with digital payments.

Value options, indulgent offerings
Chains also took the year as an opportunity to get a bigger bite of the market through product innovations, ranging from value options to more indulgent, premium items.

Plant-based space remains in spotlight
Within the innovation space, the plant-based trend remains in the spotlight, as offerings continue to make their way to reach a growing flexitarian and/of health-conscious market whilst conveying messages of sustainability.

Unique concepts seen
The year, like previous ones, also gave birth to new store concepts. In what may be a glimpse to the future of QSRs, a zero-contact bar operated by robots was trialled last July. In November, a new concept dedicated to Aus-Tex fusion was also launched.

QSRs give back
Industry players also took opportunities to support local communities. Throughout the year, frontliners such as medical staff, were given special discounts, vulnerable Aussies were supported through partnerships, whilst other chains supported charities aimed to promote mental health.

Growing in a post-pandemic world
Despite the hardships presented by the health crisis, the industry remains firm on growing in a post-pandemic world. American fast casual burger chain Five Guys made headlines for announcing its upcoming arrival in the country, whilst other estabished brands continue to remain in track with growth plans. Some chains also reached notable milestones, with Guzman y Gomez having surpassed $1 billion in revenue since its inception and McDonald's recently opening its 1,000th store in the country.

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