How are restaurant groups diversifying to grow?

As the saying goes, you’re either growing or you’re dying. In uncertain times a lot of businesses talk about “taking stock” or “consolidating”, while others push through, innovate and ultimately deliver growth. The past two years have been tough, to say the least, with many casualties. However, amid it all some companies are adapting and winning via strategies that go beyond the traditional growth path of bricks and mortar. I’m going to look at three ways companies are ripping up the rule book to follow alternative paths in pursuit of growth.

Diversified formats

Faced by a costs headwind and saturated casual dining market it isn’t surprising to see companies look to spread their risk and trade in different occasions. The continued growth of the food-on-the-go market coupled with the lower cost base have made this the first stop for many full-service brands looking to diversify. Just this week we’ve seen Wagamama launch Mamago in Fenchurch Street, London, offering an all-day menu of grab-and-go food with an Asian twist.

YO! has taken an even bolder approach, with an array of new formats designed to take the brand from a casual dining operator to the leading Japanese food company outside Japan. These formats include its first two conveyor belt-free restaurants under the YO! Kitchen brand, in which signature dishes are joined by 40 additions, and an express format designed for customers on the go that launched recently at Manchester Piccadilly train station.

It’s not only casual dining brands diversifying either – bar operator The Alchemist created a new concept last year. Aether launched at Liverpool ONE in a bid to further build on the innovation and creativity in cocktails the brand has become famous for but in a smaller format and featuring live music.

Even heavyweight McDonald’s has been playing with its concept despite leading the world’s foodservice sector for almost 65 years. In January the company launched it’s first takeaway-only restaurant, in London’s Fleet Street, leveraging its success in digital ordering to deliver on the small-format store. Later in the year McDonald’s followed that move by opening its first dark kitchen, in Hounslow.

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