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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mobile formats
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.

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.

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.

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The “combined” concept features the operator’s PappaRich, NeNe Chicken, Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart and Kurimu brands.
Initially launched in Singapore, the feature will be rolled out across the rest of its APAC markets shortly.
The chain also introduced broccoli cheese balls as a new side dish option.
Burger King currently has around 150 and 440 outlets in Japan and South Korea, respectively.
More than 60 stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu now offer this ‘1971 Salon’ reservation service, with plans to expand.
The company expects approximately 50,000 jobs to be created as a result.
The promotional boxes have sold out, partly due to scalpers reselling the toys for higher prices.
The unmanned store chain, located in Wirye New Town, is selling about 120 kinds of products.
The fast food chain estimates that stocks will be replenished by late January.
The chain now expects to have more than 45 Shake Shacks across Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia that year.
Founded in 2017, it already has a presence in ten countries, including the US, UK and Australia.
The chain has grown to employ more than 3,000 staff in over 600 stores across 45 cities.