EDITOR’S VIEW: Big chain expansion is back on the menu

Andrew Seymour

On the same day last month I found myself writing stories about two operators which arguably have very different values but share something important in common.

The companies in question were McDonald’s and Itsu and the theme that bonds them is their absolute belief that now is the perfect time to expand.

McDonald’s, the multibillion American burger franchise, and Itsu, the healthy fast food chain set up by Pret founder Julian Metcalfe, naturally come at the market from very different angles even if they are neighbours on high streets and railway station concourses up and down the country.

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McDonald’s is poised to trial more flexible restaurant layouts and customised menu options as part of a post-pandemic growth strategy aimed at cementing its fast food leadership in the UK.

The chain intends to open more than 50 new branches across the UK and Ireland this year, and will recruit 20,000 staff to support the drive and expand capacity in existing restaurants as the market unlocks.

Management have been devising a strategy to ensure the experience it offers meets the latest customer preferences and expectations.

McDonald’s will upgrade restaurants to ensure they are more experience-led, with a greater focus on customisation and personalisation.

It plans to introduce grab-and-go options in areas with a high worker population and improved click and collect facilities. It is also trialling more flexible restaurant layouts to adapt to the different ways customers use its restaurants at particular times of the day.

Meanwhile, Asian-inspired food brand Itsu has signed a significant deal with international alternative asset group, Bridgepoint.

It is targeting 100 new outlets in the next five years, creating 2,000 new jobs in the process. These new sites are in addition to the agreement Itsu has recently struck with Pizza Hut and other major franchise operators in the UK, France, and Belgium.

The company insists that never before has enjoying healthy, nutritious food been so uppermost in customers’ minds. And it can do that for about £7 per head.

The pandemic has caused chaos and suffering in the industry, but the fact that two operators from alternative ends of the spectrum have such belief in the growth potential of their business model is welcome news for the entire supply chain.

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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