Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Chicken, burgers and pizza are SA consumers’ take-away favourites

Families have changed from eating out to opting for more affordable take-away or fast food meals as consumers cut their budgets.

Chicken, burgers and pizza are South African consumers’ favourites and make up an estimated two thirds of all fast food spend, with chicken take-aways dominating fast food preferences in South Africa.

The top 10 list of fast-food outlets, according to MAPS 2023, includes one pizza restaurant, three burger joints and four chicken eateries.

However, these new insights from research Eighty20 conducted recently, is part of a mixed bag of trends based on consumers’ dining behaviour. The Top 10 list saw KFC, Chicken Licken and Debonairs in the top 3 all decrease over the past year, while McDonalds, Spur, Nando’s and Wimpy grew, says Andrew Fulton, director at Eighty20, says.

KFC is particularly dominant, topping the list overall and beating out the chicken competition by some distance. In fact, when South African adults were asked from which one on a list of fast food or casual dining outlets they last bought food in the past four weeks, more than a quarter said they bought from KFC.

Consumers now also prefer grabbing take-aways or fast food rather than eating out at restaurants or coffee shops compared to 2019 before the pandemic struck. Consumer dining behaviour now sees take-aways and fast food shops earning 41% more than in 2019, while restaurants and coffee shops are still battling at 22% below their 2019 revenue.

According to the latest statistical release for food and beverages from Statistics SA, restaurants and coffee shops accounted for R3.9-billion and take-aways for R2.8-billion in income.

ALSO READ: Load shedding: more take-aways, non-perishables bought online

SA consumers choose not to prepare food despite economic woes

“Despite South Africa’s current economic woes, these categories saw consistent growth over the last three years since Covid. However, this growth stalled for restaurants over recent months, with July and August showing more than a 4% contraction compared to a year ago.

“Fast food, on the other hand, continued to grow in real terms. The fast-food category was a third of the size of the restaurant category pre-Covid, but now it is more than two-thirds, showing just how much consumers’ purchasing behaviour has changed,” Fulton says.

The MAPS data reflects this overall positive movement in these categories, with the number of people who say they have not personally bought food from a fast food or casual dining outlet during the past four weeks dropping from 9% of the adult population to 7.4% from 2022 to 2023.

Fulton says bucking the trend seen in the Statistics SA numbers, it is interesting that casual dining brands such as Spur, Wimpy and Nando’s all did well compared to some of the more traditional fast-food brands.

In 2023 SpurCorp’s revenue grew by 27.4%, while Steers and Wimpy’s owner, Famous Brands, grew revenue by 15% for the financial year to 2023.  Nando’s is privately owned but ranked sixth in Kantar’s BrandZ Top 30 Most Valuable South African Brands.

ALSO READ: Companies that benefit from rolling blackouts

Take-aways grow thanks to load shedding

“The growth in these casual dining restaurants may be the result of several market changes, including a return to pre-Covid behaviour and the impact of load shedding as households try to avoid the challenge of cooking and eating in the dark at home during meal times,” Fulton says.

“With the rapid increase in online consumer shopping behaviour and new food delivery options, such as Checkers Sixty60, UCOOK, Mr D and Uber Eats, transformed the way consumers buy and eat their meals.”

The Eighty20 National Segmentation segments that contributed to this growth over the past year were mostly older and wealthier South Africans, the Humble Elders (69% growth) and Comfortable Retirees (222% growth).

“Recent economic pressure recently hit the Mass Credit Market and Middle-Class segments hard and, therefore, saw the least growth.  Growth from lower income segments is reflected by the increase in the number of the smaller ‘value’ chain fast food outlets, such as Pedro’s and Honchos,” Fulton says.

According to Melisha Reddy-Naicker, research and insights manager at Nando’s, consumers have to adapt their need states and the occasions that underpin this as they face tough economic conditions. “Casual dining provides a value offering that allows families to bond over a meal together without breaking the bank.”

“One hypothesis is that a bucket of fried chicken, or a family trip to Spur is a relatively inexpensive way to bring happiness to a family in tough economic times,” Fulton says.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits