Foodservice Brands Need to Innovate When Expanding Globally


Every day there are more and more stories about foodservice brands expanding globally, as favourable trade agreements between countries open the door for growth. But, international growth is more difficult than it appears, since the global market remains dominated by restaurants that are local to the country in which they operate.

According to NPD’s Global CREST survey — which tracks consumer restaurant behaviour in 12 countries around the world — global restaurant brands account for less than 10 per cent of market share. As such, domestic chain restaurants capture the vast majority of restaurant visits in most countries. In Canada, Tim Hortons is a Canadian-made success story, having grown to earn 27-per-cent share of the country’s daily restaurant visits. Following in second place is McDonald’s, which is ubiquitously seen as a global brand, capturing 10 per cent of Canada’s daily restaurant use.

The main reason for the popularity in domestic restaurants may be the local population’s desire for its native cuisine. After all, every country has its own top 10 list of most consumed items, such as buns and soybean milk in China; sushi, miso and rice balls in Japan; doughnuts in Canada; tapas in Spain; and bacon in Great Britain.

Of course, select menu items have transcended borders and are commonly found at restaurants in countries around the globe. For example, coffee is popular in most countries; beef burgers are among the top 10 foods consumed at restaurants in every country, except Italy and China; french fries are among the top 15 most consumed items in every country, except China; leaf salad is enjoyed in nearly every country; and pizza is top-ranking internationally with the exception of Asia.

And now ethnic cuisines are slowly gaining popularity, too. Major ethnic cuisines can be found almost everywhere — sushi is prevalent in Moscow, London and Chicago, noodle bars have emerged in Europe and North America, and consumers in most countries enjoy French, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Tex-Mex and Spanish.

Nonetheless, ethnic foods are rarely among the top menu items ordered in restaurants worldwide, save a few exceptions. For example, the British are more likely to order Chinese and Indian foods at restaurants than a traditional roast or fried fish as a result of a shifting ethnic population. In the U.S., Mexican food is one of the most consumed menu items, while in Canada, over the past five years, Asian food continues to be one of the fastest-growing menu items.

Overall, since consumers around the world generally prefer their native cuisine, operators looking to expand globally should learn the dynamics of the local population in which they wish to operate and adjust their menus accordingly.

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