Trends in quick service, fast food restaurants in Australia 2021
Change, adaptation, agility and more conscious choices
Part 1: Food & customer experience
2020 continues to be a big year of change and adaptation. COVID has touched every aspect of our lives, and has had a major impact on the food industry – how & where we source our food, what we eat, who we eat with and our restaurant usage behaviour.
Lockdown, social distancing and access to food has made us more conscious of our food decisions. We are eating and cooking more meals at home. Meal kit and meal delivery options have increased. There has been a resurgence of vegetable and herb gardening and cooking from scratch. Takeaway food from both quick service as well as dine-in restaurants is on the increase. We have a new appreciation of where our food and ingredients are sourced.
For the restaurant trade, survival, growth and thriving in 2021 will depend on how adaptable, agile and trend aware a business can be.
The trend towards healthier more personalised food options and experiences continues into 2021, accelerated and refined by the pandemic. “During COVID everyone has become a conscious consumer”, Nick Green co-founder of Thrive Market (A US based ecommerce natural and organic food product retailer).
The four defining themes are:
- Less is more – less handling, less interference; less processing and carbon footprint in our food (local sourcing, no/low food miles; no/low chemical treatment), less packaging
- Safety and kindness – contactless delivery/pickup and cleaning is key, as is kindness to the environment, to animal farming, to the food grower/ restaurant, to local businesses, to food security (national), to family and own health.
- Direct engagement – where possible to cut out expensive 3rd party processes that negatively impact the local business and your pocket.
- Adaptability and agility – to be able to pivot the core offer to meet customer needs. And this implies being dialed into the relevant technology and digital platforms.
Food trends 2021
- Food as medicine or wellness – allow for tailored choices to match health needs (gluten-free; dairy free; vegan; nut-free; egg-free; grain-free)
- Sugar is on the decline
- Dairy alternates growing
- Alternate grain flours are growing (rice, corn, quinoa, millet, rye, spelt)
- Grain-free flours are growing (coconut, almond, taro; potato, tapioca, sweet potato; and a range of fruit flours)
- Chickpea may be the new plant hero in 2021
- Clean & green choices – we are not simply concerned about freshness or personal health needs, but also about the safety of produce to the table. Green is about preservatives, organic, sustainable farming, free range as well as travel miles. Waste-not practices like nose-to-tail or root-to-shoot food preparation will become differentiators. And ‘clean, green & safe’ choices will now likely include country of origin as a food security need and to ensure local self-resilience.
- Plant-based, low carbon footprint choices will continue to grow. This space is evolving to a more balanced perspective of being a flexitarianism or casual vegetarian – either eating less meat/animal product and/or making ethical purchase choices like buying meat that is sustainably farmed. Documentaries like ‘Kiss the Ground’ are educating consumers as to the positive value of soil regeneration, plant nutrient value and climate change.
- Breakfast – some predicting that the rise of intermittent fasting may make breakfast a casualty, but more believing it will return to be a more substantial meal in the day.
- The market for cultured or lab-grown meat is growing with more options now available in supermarkets. Innovative companies like Vowfood are pioneering local development of cell-based meats in Australia.
- Flavour combination experimentation mixing up sweet and savoury, to delivery an interesting umami. Some examples are: salmon + caramel; steak + coffee; mushroom + blueberry; chicken +banana.
- International diversity continues, enhanced by our need to have these cultural experiences in-home during COVID lockdown.
Customer experience trends 2021
- Online ordering apps continue to serve customer’s need for convenience and speed. Adoption was accelerated during COVID as it added additional security – maximising social distancing as well as providing contactless delivery and pickup.
- Greater data analytics will enable more personalised customer experiences, tailoring offers to match customer favourites and preferences.
- Restaurants will seek opportunities to create more novel experiences – in-home or in-restaurant.
- Millenials in particular value the experience almost more than the nutritional value of the food. And your business needs to have a good social media presence so they can easily share & recommend their experience with friends.
- Some experience ideas likely to be driving creativity in 2021:
- International themes to substitute travel
- Retro and nostalgic themes
- Community pop-up events & co-creation – engaging and involving several restaurants and local suppliers
- Bring the party home – take-away party catering
- Virtual events – cooking “together” on Zoom – establishing a menu and ingredients, cooking & then dining “together”
- Virtual cooking class – with all ingredients, recipes and video instructions included. For example, Sydney Seafood School offers SSS@Home, a virtual cooking class with a new recipe each week, ordered online and picked up at participating Harris Farm outlets.
- Meal kits and meal assembly; frozen meals – pre-order weekly meals to compete with preprepared meal services.
- Expanding the brand essence/concept of your restaurant to alternate revenue streams or services:
- Retail – for example, bottling a signature sauce for grocery or local markets
- Offering compatible grocery items for delivery, pick-up – for example Mexican/Italian/Greek/etc products or gluten-free products or sustainably farmed products etc.
- A more competitive quick service, takeaway market
- More restaurants participating in delivery and pickup takeaway – dine in only restaurants scrambled during COVID to survive and now have this as an alternate revenue option.
- Wholesale suppliers competing directly, going direct to customers. A fine-dining Sydney oyster wholesale provider suddenly had excess stock during COVID lockdown. They went direct to customers at growers markets and then offered a direct delivery service to end customer homes.
- While innovation is good, not at the expense of execution – doing the basics well and consistently remains the most important need – convenient, efficient, delicious, hot, customer focused service.
- Safety assurances
- Takeaway – contactless delivery & pickup
- Dining in – COVID safety measures – tracing enabled, cleaning regime and social distancing are becoming more normative, bringing back the QR code. Alfresco dining and airflow comfort.
- A more conscious consumer has a need for
- Transparency & authenticity – the source of the meal (dark kitchen? Travel miles? Country of origin? Ingredients?)
- Sustainability and community – lockdown forced us to live local and become more aware of being locally self-sufficient. This impacts home living choices too – a home needs to allow for work and play and entertainment.
- Brands with a social conscience and a social media presence – consumer’s want to buy things that reflect their values and seek out brands that are value-driven and that are authentic in their claims. A social media presence meets consumers where they interact, shows transparency, an openness to engage and builds trust.
by Barb Jones, Marketing Insights writer, CCI
- Linchpin Team (2020, October 12) “Trends Transforming The Fast Food Outlook in 2021” Retrieved from https://linchpinseo.com/trends-fast-food-industry-outlook/
- Issuewire (2019, October 29) “8 leading-edge food trend predictions 2021 and beyond” Retrieved from https://www.issuewire.com/future-of-food-predictions-2021-1648391128548070
- Matthew G, Foodservice Tips, Restaurant Tips (2020, July 2020) “6 fast food trends to look for in 2021”. Retrieved from https://www.partstown.com/about-us/fast-food-trends
- Keith Nunes (2020, October 20) Food Business News ‘Whole Foods identifies 10 trends that will matter in 2021” Retrieved from https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/17101-whole-foods-identifies-10-trends-that-will-matter-in-2021
https://kisstheground.com/; https://www.vowfood.com/; https://www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au/Sydney-Seafood-School/SSSHome https://www.fsrmagazine.com/slideshows/5-best-practices-grow-your-restaurant https://www.fsrmagazine.com/expert-takes/traditional-dining-experience-dead https://www.fastcompany.com/90506293/how-covid-19-has-changed-the-way-we-eat-according-to-five-experts