The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on sales of self-service cafeterias. Eat-in sales ceased in April and May and buffets were subject to restrictions for a further three weeks.
Operators continued to innovate during the COVID-19 crisis. Although not all of these actions were as a direct result of the pandemic, many cushioned its impact.
Fazer Food Services, the leading player in self-service cafeteria lunch restaurants in both the captive and non-captive areas, sold its self-service cafeteria outlets to Compass Group FS Finland. The deal was announced in 2019 and finalised in 2020 and included Amica, the strongest Fazer Food Services brand.
According to a survey in April 2020, one million Finns moved to working from home during the pandemic and many wish to continue this way of working. While 2020 probably represents a peak in the number of employees working from home, many will continue to work either permanently or at least part of their time from home in the future.
Asian concepts were increasingly popular in the review period, notably Luckiefun’s Sushibuffet and Itsudemo from Hao Fu offering sushi buffets (and interestingly, run by Chinese entrepreneurs rather than Japanese). Both already run on a franchising concept enabling them to rapidly expand their outlet numbers.
Location is set to remain a key factor in the performance of self-service cafeterias going forward. Outlets in forecourt retailers will continue to perform well for much the same reasons as during the pandemic, whereas outlets in shopping centres suffered from low footfall in 2020, even though the centres remained open and it remains to be seen whether consumer foodservice in shopping centres will be able to maintain the strong growth it witnessed over the review period.
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