The fast food market is worth 34 billion euros in France and benefits from an ever-increasing demand: fast food represents 40% of the total restaurant market and is the sector with the best growth. Also known as counter sales, fast food covers a wide variety of products (e.g. sandwiches, pizza, sushi and pasta) and responds to new lifestyles (e.g. the meal break has reduced from 1 hour 38 minutes on average to 31 minutes).
The fast food market was rather dynamic and had a resilient context until 2010: +500 establishments in Paris in 2010 and a 124% increase in the Paris suburbs. Since then, the growth of the sector has been uneven, rather unstable and sensitive to the economic situation. The sector experienced a deceleration, with an average drop in turnover of 3.9% in 2014, impact of the economic crisis that has been raging since 2008. The market seemed to be booming again, with growth of 2.56% in 2013 but slowed down again in 2015. This is only temporary, the time that the economic situation improves: indeed a decline of 4.5% was recorded in 2015, with a strong fall in the Paris region which is explained by the context of fall of international tourism and the attacks the same year. Growth returned quickly in 2016 with an increase of 1.2% and positive growth was forecast for 2017. Despite this instability, the fast-food sector in France is the most dynamic segment of the restaurant industry, with 13,261 chains created in 2015 alone, including more than 705 in Paris. Paris is today's most dynamic fast food centre.
The fast food market is divided into several segments: American-style fast food, sandwich and salad shops, home delivery, organic fast food which is the most popular segment at the moment, and finally ethnic food (Indian, Chinese, Mexican fast food, etc.). The entry of a new type of competitor on this market, food trucks, intensifies competition in France, especially in Paris where this type of brand is increasingly present.
The sector is regulated by strong price competition which keeps fast food prices relatively low (between €8 and €10 on average for one meal). Keeping prices low is partly enabled by the fact that the majority of fast food companies are small self-employed and 39% of them do not employ staff. It is a very competitive market, with a significant turnover of small companies, which are very numerous and must also face competition from large groups in the sector (Mcdonald's, Pizza Hut...) and large surfaces which now offer counter sales (Daily Monop).
With an average of one meal in seven consumed outside the home in France compared to one in three in Great Britain, there is room for growth in the fast food market. Nevertheless, with the French being attached to a certain gastronomic tradition, the French fast food market is a market in itself and is innovative, which interests the major international groups in the sector.
To continue to grow, fast food operators must meet consumer demands. If the traditional ham and butter combination remains the champion of counter sales (2/3 of sandwiches consumed are ham anf butter), customers want innovation. New intermediaries have developed, such as Food Panda or Take Eat Easy: they deliver to their homes and offices, and offer their clients a list of fast foods from which they can order. An opportunity for fast food companies to partner with these platforms to expand their customer base and be more accessible to a larger number of customers. The latest actor is Uber Eats. The Bio and Fasts Goods segment is expanding, enabling some players to penetrate the market and others to make radical innovations by offering a new range of organic or healthy products. Organic products, the development of catering outlets in bakeries and the creation of innovative concepts such as Le camion qui fume in Paris (sold in a truck installed on the street of high-end hamburgers) are all avenues that are contributing to the constant growth of this changing market. While there is pressure on prices, consumers are nevertheless aware that quality has a cost and expect either high-end or inexpensive products. An advantage that historical leaders therefore undeniably retain is a price advantage. But is this advantage temporary, given the growing search for healthier food and the willingness of more consumers to pay the price?
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