2021: Year In Review
We look back at the highs and lows of the Asian multi-site restaurant industries these past twelve months.
Asia’s diversity and varied responses to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic offered a unique picture of how its quick service and fast casual restaurant industries adapted to restrictions, changing consumer expectations and how it’s approaching the years ahead.
QSR Media’s Year In Review looks back at the most significant developments these past twelve months:
Unfazed appetite for expansion
A key theme this year was the region’s unfazed appetite for expansion, reflective of chains’ optimism for opportunities as countries bolster their COVID vaccination rates. Able to withstand headwinds, fast food heavyweights and medium-sized chains in particular have set targets for the next few years.
- Subway APAC president: regional growth can match U.S. foothold
- McDonald’s Malaysia to open 200 more outlets within five years
- Marugame Udon operator eyeing 4,000 outlets by 2027
- Yum China, Lavazza lay $200m plan to open 1,000 stores by 2025
- Carl's Jr. owner inks master franchise deal to grow Russian footprint
- Guzman y Gomez founder expects Singapore footprint to nearly triple in three to five years
- Tech-enabled Flash Coffee raises US$15m, plans 300 more stores in 2021
- SaladStop Group eyes four new markets in 2025 after securing US$8.8m investment
- Vietnamese chain TNI King Coffee makes U.S. debut, eyes 100 stores by 2022
- Papa John's continues Asian expansion, eyes 15 restaurants in Cambodia over three years
- Popeyes to enter India, neighboring countries in coming years via Jubilant FoodWorks
- Jollibee targets foreign expansion, acquisitions after COVID losses
A year of market debuts
The year was also one of notable debuts for various brands, entering specific markets for the first time or forging their way with strategic tie-ups.
- Pizza Hut to start Cambodia expansion, eyes 30 stores in up to three years
- U.S.-headquartered Wayback Burgers inks master franchise deal to enter Asia
- Five Guys opens first Malaysian restaurant
- Paris Baguette ties up with Erajaya group to make Indonesian debut
- South Korean chicken chain Goobne eyes six openings in next 12 months
- Philippines’ Potato Corner bakes Australian entry
- Eggslut to open first Singapore outlet at Scotts Square
- Paris Baguette makes Cambodia debut
- Taco Bell Malaysia opens first restaurant
- Arabica unveils first Malaysian store
- American barbeque franchise Dickey's arrives in Singapore
- Shake Shack to make Macau debut at The Londoner
IPOs eyed, stakes taken
For some operators, regional growth meant going public or at least weighing the option to do so. Other companies also secured or increased their stakes in another entity.
- KFC Malaysia operator QSR Brands picks banks for IPO: report
- Domino’s Pizza China franchisee weighing Hong Kong IPO: report
- Heytea reportedly eyeing $500m Hong Kong IPO
- Tim Hortons’ China biz to go public in $1.7bn SPAC merger
- KFC India franchisee Devyani International files for US$191m IPO
- Rebel Foods takes minority stake in Indian dumpling chain Zomoz
- Jollibee ups investment in Tim Ho Wan holding firm
Delivering omnichannel experiences
‘Omnichannel’ became a constant part of the conversation when discussing customer experiences. In the region, this equated to retail arms, virtual brands and strengthening off-premise assets.
- How EFG is rethinking its brand portfolio to turbocharge post-COVID growth
- Foodpanda, Rebel Foods ink five-year virtual brands partnership
- SaladStop to launch plant-based grocery arm on Deliveroo
- 7-Eleven Singapore, Andes by Astons launch ready-to-eat meals
- JUMBO Group eyes bigger share of out-of-home market with revamped retail arm
Delivery dishing out restaurant optimism
Delivery, in particular, remained in the spotlight for being a key asset for chains during lockdown, offering needed optimism for restaurateurs. Some companies also used the year as an opportunity to test out other ways to utilise this channel.
- Customer-by-customer personalisation may be the future of delivery, foodpanda exec says
- More Hong Kong restaurants ‘optimistic’ about economy: Deliveroo survey
- Uber Eats to wind down Hong Kong operations after five years
Similar to other markets, the year also saw Asia betting on other store models to reach more customers. Notably, major players in the region opted for smaller, mobile formats.
- Tim Hortons China operator bets on compact “Go” format with METRO partnership
- Jollibee, Doordash team up to roll out mobile kitchen concept in Canada
- BreadTalk brings back mobile bakery
More plant-based options seen
Health and sustainability remain on top of mind for Asian consumers, with chains acknowledging the steady rise of the plant-based market with even more options.
- Asian consumers demanding ‘healthier, safer and more sustainable’ foods: report
- Singapore-based burrito and kebab chain Stuff’d to use faux-beef from Impossible Foods
- Impossible Foods’ faux-pork to debut in Hong Kong, Singapore restaurants
- KFC adds vegan ice cream to its menus across China
- Burger King Japan goes bunless for latest plant-based offering
- Burger King Singapore launches plant-based Whopper
- Plant-based steak to roll out across Pepper Lunch outlets in Indonesia
- 7-Eleven Singapore to introduce Impossible Burger offering on 26 May
- McDonald's China adds first plant-based meat options
Exploring technological trends
Some chains also took the past year as an opportunity to explore technological trends. In the region, McDonald’s released its first NFT (non-fungible token) in China alongside a new flagship restaurant. Other companies tested drones and robots to improve services.