2021: Year in Review

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

The past twelve months offered a myriad of challenges for Britain’s quick service and fast casual restaurant industry, forcing chains that wish to thrive to be agile amidst lockdowns whilst serving up opportunities for those who were ahead in delivering multi-channel experiences.

QSR Media’s Year In Review looks back at the most significant developments these past twelve months:

Living with lockdowns
It was a long road to reopening for the industry, which dealt with a combination of guidelines for operating. Delivery and takeaway remained a key asset for chains that previously relied on dine-in. Recently, Britain announced the first death from the omicron coronavirus variant, prompting questions if there would be another lockdown soon. 

Brand pivots, multiple revenue streams
Learning from last year, 2021 was a year of opportunity for chains to augment their business models to fit with current customer expectations. Some went the retail route, whilst others turned to non-traditional locations and unique formats.

The spectre of inflation
The industry is also facing problems stemming from UK inflation, which hit a ten-year high, with the Bank of England expecting it rise further to around 5% in the spring of 2022 before falling back toward its 2% target by late 2023.

Staffing crisis
QSRs and fast casual restaurants are also feeling the pains resulting from staff shortages to almost all parts of the economy, putting severe pressure especially on medium-sized businesses. Chains have been encouraged to further utilise tech, whilst other chains opted for hiring sprees.

Ambitious expansion drives, acquisitions
Medium-sized chains and fast food heavyweights also seized the year to announce ambitious growth plans in the UK. American chains such as Popeyes and Wendy's also made their presence felt with new flagships.

Sustainability still on the forefront
Sustainability remained a key priority for chains during the year, with major businesses pledging various targets.

More vegan fast food
Vegan food remained a key opportunity for chains looking to reach a growing market, with particular chains turning to partnerships with plant-based producers to hasten product launches.

Partnerships, unique activations
Chains also took this year as an opportunity to reach new and growing audiences, including the UK gaming scene. Others turned to unique activations to further brand reach.

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The brand previously revealed it will open ten sites this year.
The burger is available until 31 January in Absurd Bird sites.
The company operates 18 restaurants in the UK.
This will be the fifth London site for the Australian chef.
She joined Papa John’s in 2015 as senior director for digital marketing and most recently served as senior vice president for customer experience.
274 million orders were processed in the fourth quarter of last year.
This effectively ends a takeover bid from the Issa brothers' EG Group.
The company will invest over £9.2 million to raise hourly rates amidst sector-wide labour shortages.
Founded in 2017, it already has a presence in ten countries, including the US, UK and Australia.
The move is expected to create 1,000 jobs and 4,000 over the next three years.
Deliveroo, meanwhile, reported a 117% surge in plant-based ordering across the UK since Veganuary 2021.
It also has plans to grow in Edinburgh in the next few years.
Sales in December 2021 ran at approximately 63% of 2019 levels.