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Finland's appetite for fast food grows during Covid-19 spring

Major local fast food companies all say they are looking for more growth in the next few years.

Covid-19 shuttered restaurants so Finns turned to fast food takeouts and deliveries. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Covid-19 has eaten into many restaurants’ and cafes’ profits but it also appears to be feeding Finns’ appetite for fast food. A good example is local pizza chain Kotipizza, which said that in May this year it posted the strongest sales of its 33-year history. It said that revenues surged 17 percent compared to last year, while online orders skyrocketed 152 percent.

Takeaway orders and home deliveries were largely responsible for the record performances and helped see fast food firms through the restrictions imposed during Finland’s four-month state of emergency. Many believe that the shift to off-premise eating will be a permanent change in eating habits.

Kotipizza Group CEO Tommi Tervanen said that even after restrictions on restaurant dining were rolled back in June, online orders continued to account for 40 - 45 percent of all Kotipizza sales. Meanwhile local burger chain Hesburger also reported an increase in takeaway orders this spring compared to previous years.

"Some fast food restaurants have done well because their products and operations have served the takeaway market very well. Others have suffered badly during the spring and are only just recovering," Hospitality Association (MaRa) chair Timo Lappi said.

Lappi said that he expects the fast food industry to grow even after the coronavirus crisis is over, in the same way it has expanded in recent years.

Big expansion plans in the works

Kotipizza’s Tervanen said that the company has been able to increase market share in the pizza business and now has 280 restaurants. He added that the aim is to add 10-15 new outlets to the network every year.

"That’s how we will grow in this country. It has been our annual [expansion] level for the past five years. Before we renewed our concept in 2015, we had been closing the same number every year. At the time our concept was not sustainable enough for certain locations," Tervanen continued.

Vegetarian-focused street food option Fafa’s also said it is aiming for a bigger presence in Finland. In three years the network has grown from 12 to 45 restaurants.

"For this year we originally budgeted for moderate growth. The easiest growth phase is behind us as we have been able to get the locations we wanted. In the long term we want to increase the number of outlets in Finland to 100," CEO Ville Myllyniemi said.

Peter Fagerholm of nine-restaurant chain Friends & Brgrs said he believes there is still room for the newcomer to expand on Finland.

"Last year when we were acquired by NoHo Partners we said that over the next few years we want to open more than 30 new restaurants in Finland. We believe that we could have 30 - 50 restaurants in a few years. We don’t want to change that vision now either," Fagerholm added.

Meanwhile burger chain Hesburger said that it will continue to develop the operations of its 280 restaurants in Finland and will launch a few new outlets in the years ahead.

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