Even the most casual restaurant patron has a sense of how difficult the pandemic is for restaurants – one only has to walk down Main Street to see the empty storefronts. While restaurants in the United States have struggled to stay afloat during these difficult times, restaurant chains that operate across national borders have faced the same challenges, if not some. In addition to having to navigate changing state laws, practices and regulations, these companies have also had to navigate the vast nation-to-nation gaps, as some countries have been successful in containing the coronavirus from the start, and others didn’t really get away with it. good.
Now, international restaurant chains are recovering. As vaccine deployment progresses around the world, a multinational fast food company (QSR) CKE Restaurants, Inc., parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, resumes aggressive global growth. Earlier this month, the company ad its 1,000th international restaurant, coming out of difficult times.
“I would call [the pandemic] a kind of retarder ”, Mike Woida, international president of CKE Restaurants, Inc., told PYMNTS in an interview. “The international markets have had a somewhat different experience than we have had at the national level with the pandemic, and of course each country has reacted a little differently… It has driven a lot of projects in this year, and what we now let’s see, as the pandemic shrinks, development is accelerating.
Far from resting on this major milestone, the company is looking to double its global presence over the next five years.
The pivot of the pandemic
Woida noted that during the pandemic, CKE restaurants performed best in Australia and New Zealand and, as you might expect, in high-consumption markets.
“The United States has been very successful because about 99% of our restaurants in the United States are driving,” Woida said. “Places like Canada, Mexico, France, Australia, New Zealand, where the majority of our restaurants are open, we have had record sales in those places. “
On the other hand, markets where CKE’s restaurants are primarily located in shopping malls, “mainly in some countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia”, have not performed as well, these markets “still recovering”, both for CKE and for other big chains.
To get through the tough times, Woida said, the business “has pivoted to an omnichannel approach” where the business “has relied on drive-thru, delivery, curbside, advance ordering, the mobile app, “channels that, he said,” have really helped sales.
In fact, the PYMNTS Restaurant Payments Digitization Report created in collaboration with American Express notes that 89% of the $ 486 billion in food consumed at home in 2020 came from web and mobile orders and that 92% of top-performing restaurants offer mobile apps for ordering in advance.
Adapt for the international customer
The company’s international expansion includes the addition of new locations in Europe, for which CKE’s “really strong business model” helps offset high real estate costs in many countries. Nonetheless, the company continues to seek new ways to “harness and maximize our supply chain” in these markets.
“We really want to target and focus our development on important areas where we can move quickly,” said Woida. “We have a pan-European supply chain, already in place, and growing, scaling up and managing our costs is the next big thing we need to do, where in the US these are already fixed. “
As the company enters new markets, it often tailors its menu slightly to local tastes. Woida explained that these “locations” “will try to deliver familiar flavors without departing from an American brand of hamburgers.” These menu items “harness the flavors our local customers know” – Woida cited a truffle burger at CKE branches in France, jalapeno peppers at its Mexican branches and poutine in Canada.
Store design for the post-COVID future
The company recently opened a flagship restaurant outside of Sydney, which in its first six weeks set “the highest performing record in CKE history to date”. Now for the future, the company is putting the finishing touches on a “prototypical project”, aimed at launching the Australia store model in the third quarter of 2021, which it calls “the omni-prototype”.
“It is a smaller footprint building, its design is very flexible,” said Woida.
The model may have a dining area with seating or may be drive-thru only. Its drive-thru is digitally integrated, it can have “curbside delivery ports”, it can be two-story or one-story, and it will reserve an area for third-party delivery drivers to pick up orders without disturbing customers on the road. shop.
Additionally, Woida predicts that in all locations, the off-facility ordering channels that have prevailed during the pandemic will “continue to be strong,” while auto-order kiosks will also gain popularity as the chain expands. new restaurants in the world.
“We have so many creative opportunities and white spaces internationally that we can grow much faster,” Woida said. “We are eager to look into our existing markets and… to tap and grow in the European market, which is truly an exciting frontier for us.
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