Whilst the format of limited-service restaurants is better placed to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, the category did not escape unscathed. Most types of limited-service restaurants (LSRs) already had a high share of home delivery/takeaway (HDTA) and online sales, which could have enabled them to partly offset the closure of eat-in establishments from mid-March to early June 2020.
The easing of lockdowns coincided with the reopening of foodservice eat-in establishments in mid-June 2020, which gave a strong boost to most limited-service restaurants. Even if a percentage of the population working in offices still stayed at home, remove working became less prevalent overall and this helped restimulate transactions in LSRs from June to September, mainly boosted by the explosion of online and HDTA sales with millennials and young families with children, particularly so through chained burger and pizza LSRs (fast food), which is evidenced by chained pizza limited-service restaurants seeing the least steep decline in value sales in 2020.
McDonald's France SA maintains its strong lead in limited-service restaurants in 2020, even though the global player also faced challenges due to the COVID-19 landscape. After the difficult first couple of months, fast food chains such as McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and (significantly) Quick, played the recovery game admirably well during the second half of 2020.
Despite showing better signs of recovery than full-service restaurants and cafés/bars, limited-service restaurants are not expected to fully bounce back immediately. There are still COVID-19 restrictions and regulations concerning dine-in establishments, which are also changeable depending upon further peaks of infections.
In addition to well-established HDTA and online third-party sales, which enabled some players and chains to offset their losses and even forge ahead in some instances (for example, as seen with the Pizza Cosy chain via its Pranzo 100% home delivery concept), the phenomenon of ghost kitchens is something which will take off in the short-term, after having emerged in France in 2018-2019. Ghost kitchens are professional food preparation and cooking facilities, set up for the creation of delivery-only meals.
A further asset for LSRs is their dual benefit of being able to swiftly adapt to changing needs, alongside the marketing advantage of being able to propose novelty and trendy food concepts – significantly faster than seen with full-service restaurants. Burgers will most likely remain the most dynamic category in actual value terms over the forecast period, thanks to the upgrading of small chains and independent outlets (with fresh fries and local ingredients such as foie gras or French cheese), alongside the ambitions of mainstream chains.
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