Following very difficult years in 2016 and 2017, when the category was adversely impacted by terrorist attacks, especially in Brussels, full-service restaurants continued to struggle in 2018. This was due to several factors.
Facing increasing pressure on profit margins due to very high labour and administrative costs, full-service restaurants, especially independents, adopted different strategies in 2018. Following the full implementation of the black box cash register system, full-service restaurants have found online ordering via partnerships with third-party providers such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats to be very valuable.
Another measure used by a number of full-service restaurants in order to reduce fixed costs has been the common kitchen, with this involving a chain or a number of affiliated independent restaurants making use of a single kitchen; the food prepared in a common kitchen is then served in each of the chained or affiliated restaurants. This concept, which requires a minimum of three affiliated restaurants to make it profitable, also means, however, that restaurants only warm up food.
Full-service restaurants remained a very fragmented category in 2018. Independent operators continued to account for the vast majority of both outlets and retail value sales.
Among the few chains operating in Belgium, Ellis Gourmet Burger performed well in 2018. The company benefited from rising consumer demand for gourmet burgers and managed to attract new consumers, especially millennials, thanks to both ongoing menu innovation and a strong focus on sustainability and environmental issues.
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