Quick serves continue their winning ways
Momentum. The quick-service industry holds it right now and it continues inspiring some bold, ambitious plans—and thoughts that contemporary times might indeed rival the 1980s as the golden era of fast food.
Papa Johns has touted plans to add as many as 1,800 units over the next three years.
Raising Cane’s entered 2022 with fewer than 600 units. The Louisiana-based chain expects to close the year with more than 700, including restaurants across 10 new markets.
Wingstop president and CEO Michael Skipworth believes his Texas-based concept can become a top 10 global restaurant brand with 100 percent digital transactions, AUVs over $2 million, and more than 7,000 worldwide restaurants.
“With the momentum that we’re experiencing at Wingstop, I would agree that we’re in a golden era of fast food that isn’t slowing,” Skipworth says, adding his brand is “primed for long-term success” thanks to a proven model sitting alongside a strong digital and delivery strategy.
Chipotle previously estimated it could operate about 6,000 North American restaurants. Now, the chain is projecting 7,000 units.
“We are building a real estate pipeline that will allow us to accelerate new unit growth to be in the range of 8-10 percent per year, with greater than 80 percent of new restaurants having a Chipotlane,” says Scott Boatwright, chief restaurant officer at Chipotle.
Even Houston-based Shipley Do-Nuts, a well-respected-but-not-yet-national-name, foresees doubling its unit count to 700 over the next five years.
“Quick serves are winning with quality, value, convenience, and store-level execution,” NPD Group’s Portalatin says, adding that savvy quick-service brands are leveraging digital engagement and creating innovative new store designs to ensure convenience and accommodate higher capacity, largely in response to consumers’ swelling appetite for off-premises dining.
Consider Popeyes as one case. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, Popeyes is unabashedly, unapologetically, and unrelentingly focused on growth and feeding consumers’ intensifying embrace of value, convenience, and tasty food to create a bigger brand footprint.
“Right now, guests can’t have Popeyes wherever they want it, so we have a huge runway with how many more restaurants we can open in the U.S. & Canada,” Siddiqui says.
Over the next five years, Siddiqui wants to further elevate the guest experience and achieve operational excellence, leaning on enthusiastic franchisees, innovative products, and relevant technology to drive performance in the U.S. and abroad. The company is testing new restaurant formats oriented to digital-only orders, including ghost kitchens, and strengthening third-party and digital partnerships to enhance access for customers.
“That’s what will take us to the next level,” Siddiqui says.
Despite the existence of some pesky market challenges, Siddiqui says the quick-service model has shown itself to be “tried and true” and proven its resiliency. By and large, the industry navigated headwinds like the pandemic and supply chain disruptions and adapted to consumer needs in real-time by pivoting much of their business to drive-thrus, delivery, and contactless options. Such swift changes deepened quick serves’ relationships with consumers and helped elevate Popeyes and so many of its quick-service siblings in the eyes of consumers.
“Ultimately, if you listen to the evolving needs of your guests and ensure your team members are taken care of, then your restaurants will be better equipped to navigate and prosper through times of uncertainty,” Siddiqui says.