The fast-casual boom in the UK’s restaurant industry is becoming increasingly hard to ignore. The fast-food and takeaway sector experienced enormous growth due to the pandemic, but recent data around property prices, consumer trends and industry flexibility are suggesting a reversal of fortunes.

Sanjeev Sanghera

Sanjeev Sanghera

With the collapse of many of the UK’s biggest fast-food chains in recent years, coupled with Covid-19 and Brexit, the low-end landscape has been reshaped. Retailers have also struggled, with many brands ceasing to trade, which has created a challenge for commercial landlords who now need to fill the empty space with new businesses. These record-low retail property prices have opened up opportunities for fast-casual brands to accelerate their expansion to new sites both in the UK and globally.

The past 18 months have proven how fast-casual brands are able to quickly adapt and innovate in the way they serve their customers, whether that be dine-in, delivery, takeaway or click & collect. If the pandemic has brought one thing into sharper focus, it is that the restaurant industry must be more agile and be able to pivot in order to react to persistent change.

Consumers are increasingly looking for healthier and more sustainable food options, with transparency of ingredients and ethical impact on the environment and labour globally.

Casual dining

Source: Shutterstock / phaustov

Fast-casual operators are able to meet this demand and have become a more appealing choice as they typically serve nutritious options prepared with fresher ingredients than fast food and create unique flavours, fusions and cultural inspiration to fit the taste of any consumer.

The pandemic has also stimulated a desire for fast-casual brands to expand in the UK. As demonstrated by Döner Shack’s forthcoming expansion into the US in 2022, the demand for new food concepts and brands is rife across the pond also.

With a unique combination of pent-up demand, government stimulus and commercial incentives, there has never been a better time to invest in a fast-casual restaurant.

Sanjeev Sanghera is co-founder and managing director of Döner Shack