Takeaway & Fast Food Industry Trends 2024

The UK’s takeaway and fast food industry has witnessed a remarkable evolution over the past decades, transforming from simple fish and chip shops and kebab vans into a diverse and sophisticated sector that caters to a broad range of tastes and preferences. This transformation has been driven by technological advancements, changing consumer lifestyles, and increasing demand for convenience.

Global events have significantly influenced consumer behaviour and necessitated adaptations within the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, accelerated the shift towards digital ordering and contactless delivery as consumers sought safer and more convenient ways to enjoy their favourite meals. This period also saw an increased awareness of health and sustainability, pushing fast food outlets to reconsider their menu offerings and operational practices.

Moreover, the economic uncertainties brought about by global crises, including the pandemic and geopolitical tensions, have impacted spending habits, with consumers becoming more price-conscious yet still expecting quality and convenience. As a result, the industry has had to innovate rapidly to keep pace with shifting demands, introduce new business models and leverage technology to enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction.

This backdrop sets the stage for a closer examination of the specific trends expected to dominate the UK takeaway and fast food industry in 2024, reflecting the industry’s ongoing adaptation to a changing world.

Takeaway & Fast Food Industry Trends 2024 - BE Event Furniture Sales


Technology Integration in Fast Food Operations

Technology integration in the fast food and takeaway sector has been a game-changer, significantly altering how businesses operate and interact with customers. This evolution has been particularly evident in the rise of digital ordering systems and the adoption of contactless delivery and payment methods.

Digital Ordering Systems and App-Based Convenience

The surge in app-based ordering systems has transformed customer interactions with fast food outlets, offering unparalleled convenience and efficiency. Significant chains have embraced this technology to streamline operations and enhance the customer experience. For instance, McDonald’s UK introduced the “My McDonald’s” app, which allows customers to order ahead, customise their meals, and access exclusive deals, significantly speeding up the ordering process and reducing in-store queues. Similarly, Domino’s Pizza has leveraged its app to capitalise on the trend towards home delivery, with features that allow customers to track their orders in real time, contributing to increased customer satisfaction and repeat business.

These case studies illustrate how integrating sophisticated digital solutions has met customer expectations for quick and easy service and provided fast food chains with valuable data to refine their offerings and marketing strategies further.

Contactless Deliveries and Payment Methods

Following the pandemic, there has been a marked shift towards contactless deliveries and payment methods, driven by consumer demand for safer, more hygienic ways to receive and pay for food. This shift has been rapidly adopted across the industry, with many outlets implementing systems that minimise physical contact. For example, KFC UK introduced contactless payment options across its outlets, allowing customers to pay via smartphone apps, contactless cards, or smart devices, significantly reducing the physical interaction between staff and customers.

Moreover, delivery services like Deliveroo and Eat have refined their operations to offer “leave at the door” delivery options, ensuring that food can be delivered with minimal contact. These adaptations respond to health and safety concerns and cater to the increasing consumer preference for quick, efficient, and minimal-hassle service options.


Shift Towards Healthier Menu Options

The UK’s fast food industry has seen a significant shift towards healthier menu options in response to growing consumer health consciousness and the increasing demand for dietary diversity. This transition is evident in expanding plant-based and alternative protein offerings and the enhanced focus on nutritional transparency and menu labelling.

Incorporation of Plant-Based and Alternative Proteins

The rise of vegetarian and vegan options in fast food has been meteoric, driven by environmental concerns and health motivations. Statistics indicate a steady increase in plant-based menu items, with the Vegan Society noting a 300% increase in vegans in the UK over the past five years, a trend that major fast food outlets are keen to cater to. For instance, Burger King UK has expanded its plant-based offerings with items like the Vegan Royale and plant-based Whopper, tapping into the burgeoning market of consumers seeking meat-free alternatives.

Greggs introduced their now-famous Vegan Sausage Roll in 2019, which became an instant hit. This illustrates the significant consumer demand for plant-based alternatives even in traditional fast food settings. These examples highlight how mainstream fast food chains are adapting to and capitalizing on the shift towards plant-based diets, reflecting broader changes in consumer eating habits.

Nutritional Transparency and Menu Labelling

Alongside the increase in plant-based offerings, there has been a push towards greater nutritional transparency within the fast food industry. This has been partly spurred by regulatory changes requiring more transparent menu labelling, which enables consumers to make more informed choices about their food. In the UK, new legislation now mandates that large restaurant chains display calorie counts on menus, aiming to encourage healthier eating habits by making calorie information readily accessible at the point of sale.

The impact of these changes on consumer decision-making is significant. Studies have shown that menu labelling can influence consumers to choose lower-calorie options, and there is a growing preference for outlets that provide comprehensive nutritional information. This transparency helps customers make healthier choices and builds trust and accountability, enhancing the brand’s reputation among health-conscious consumers.


Eco-Conscious Packaging and Sustainability Practices

As environmental concerns become increasingly central to consumer choices, the fast food industry in the UK is making significant strides in adopting eco-conscious packaging and sustainability practices. This shift is driven by consumer demand and new legislation aimed at reducing waste and environmental impact.

Reduction of Single-Use Plastics

The UK government has introduced several legislative measures to reduce the reliance on single-use plastics, a major pollutant from the fast food industry. In response, many fast food chains have started implementing innovative, sustainable packaging solutions. For instance, McDonald’s UK has committed to removing all single-use plastics from their products by 2024, replacing them with renewable, recycled, or certified materials. This includes shifting from plastic straws to paper alternatives and introducing wooden cutlery across their outlets.

Another notable example is Pret A Manger, which has introduced comprehensive recycling on-site and uses compostable cutlery and paper straws. These changes are part of a more significant commitment to sustainability that resonates well with the environmentally aware UK consumer base.

Carbon Footprint Reduction Initiatives

Reducing the carbon footprint is another critical area in which UK fast food chains are taking action. Several chains are implementing green practices that extend beyond packaging to include energy use, food waste management, and sourcing ingredients locally.

Leon Restaurants, a UK-based fast food chain, has been a leader in sustainability. It implements measures to reduce energy consumption and sources ingredients from local suppliers to decrease transport emissions. Its initiatives also include using 100% renewable energy and striving towards zero waste by recycling or composting the majority of its waste.

The impact of local sourcing on a chain’s sustainability credentials is profound. By sourcing ingredients locally, fast food outlets can reduce their environmental impact and support local economies. For example, Burger King UK has taken steps to source its meat and vegetables from local suppliers wherever possible, which reduces transportation emissions and supports local farmers.


Consumer Preferences Driving Menu Innovation

The UK’s fast food and takeaway industry is continually evolving to meet its consumers’ diverse and sophisticated tastes. This evolution is particularly evident in the rising demand for global flavours and the increasing preference for customisation and personalisation in menu options.

Demand for Global Flavours and Fusion Cuisine

The UK’s culinary landscape is richly diverse, and this diversity is increasingly reflected in the fast food sector. Consumers are showing a growing appetite for global flavours, leading to fusion cuisine’s rise within the takeaway market. Restaurants creatively merge culinary traditions to produce innovative and exciting dishes that appeal to adventurous palates.

For example, Wagamama has successfully integrated Japanese flavours with other Asian influences, creating popular dishes like katsu curries and ramen that blend spices and ingredients from multiple regions. Similarly, Nando’s has continued to popularise its Afro-Portuguese-inspired menu, combining fiery peri-peri sauces with various global dishes to cater to the UK’s taste for spice and variety.

These examples demonstrate how fusion cuisine is not just about combining different culinary traditions but also about innovating in response to changing consumer preferences. This trend encourages chefs and restaurants to experiment and push the boundaries of traditional fast food.

Rise of Customisation and Personalisation

Alongside a demand for global flavours, there is an increasing consumer desire for bespoke, tailored food experiences. Technological advancements facilitate this shift towards customisation and personalisation, allowing customers to specify their preferences in ways that were impossible before.

Digital platforms and apps are at the forefront of this trend, allowing users to customise their meals to the smallest detail. For instance, Domino’s Pizza will enable customers to build their pizza via their app, choosing from various bases, sauces, cheeses, and toppings. This level of personalisation enhances the dining experience by giving consumers exactly what they want while increasing their engagement with the brand.

Furthermore, technology such as AI is being used to predict customer preferences and suggest personalised menu options. KFC, for example, has experimented with AI technology in their drive-thrus, recommending dishes based on previous orders, time of day, and even current weather conditions.


Economic Factors Influencing Industry Dynamics

The economic landscape plays a critical role in shaping the dynamics of the fast food and takeaway industry. Inflation, wage changes, and overall financial stability influence consumer spending habits and dictate strategic decisions within the sector. Understanding these influences is critical for businesses looking to adapt and thrive.

Impact of Economic Uncertainty on Consumer Spending

Economic uncertainty can profoundly impact how consumers allocate their disposable income, particularly concerning dining out and ordering takeaway. Research indicates that during periods of economic downturn, there is a notable shift towards more budget-friendly dining options as households tighten their belts to manage expenses. However, the fast food sector often exhibits resilience due to its value proposition.

Predictions for 2024 suggest that despite ongoing economic challenges, the fast food industry might continue to experience steady demand. This resilience is partly due to the convenience and relatively low cost of fast food options, which remain attractive to consumers when discretionary spending on entertainment and dining at more expensive restaurants is reduced. Moreover, innovations such as value meals and budget-friendly options are likely to drive consumer traffic even amidst financial constraints.

The Role of Competitive Pricing and Value Deals

Competitive pricing and the strategic use of value deals are crucial in attracting and retaining customers in the fast food sector. These tactics are fundamental during economic strain when consumers are looking for the best value for their money.

The industry has seen successful campaigns highlighting the importance of competitive pricing. For instance, McDonald’s UK’s ‘Saver Menu’ offers a range of products at lower price points, attracting price-sensitive customers and encouraging frequent visits. Similarly, KFC’s ‘Bargain Buckets’ provide family-sized meal options at a discounted rate, offering perceived value that resonates well with groups and families looking to maximise their spend.

Promotional campaigns also play a pivotal role. Limited-time offers, such as special pricing on new or seasonal items, create a buzz and increase footfall. Domino’s ‘Two for Tuesday’ promotion, offering two pizzas for the price of one, is a prime example of a deal that boosts sales volumes while fostering customer loyalty.


Growing Influence of Delivery Aggregators

The fast food and takeaway industry has seen a significant shift towards delivery services, with third-party aggregators playing a pivotal role in reshaping how food is ordered and delivered. These platforms have grown in popularity and influence, becoming integral to the operations of many fast food outlets.

Dominance of Third-Party Delivery Services

Third-party delivery services like Deliveroo and Eat have captured substantial market share in the UK, facilitating a connection between restaurants and consumers seeking convenience. An analysis of their market share reveals that these platforms command a significant portion of online food delivery, driven by their extensive network of partner restaurants and sophisticated logistics systems.

Partnering with these aggregators offers numerous advantages, such as increased exposure to potential customers and outsourced delivery logistics, which can significantly reduce restaurant overhead costs. However, there are also drawbacks. The fees charged by these platforms can be substantial, cutting into restaurants’ profit margins. Additionally, reliance on third-party services can reduce direct interaction between restaurants and their customers, potentially impacting customer loyalty and brand identity.

Innovations and New Business Models in Delivery

As the delivery market evolves, new business models and innovations are emerging. These developments are driven by the need to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance the customer experience. For example, some services are experimenting with automation and robotics in delivery processes, such as drone deliveries or autonomous delivery vehicles, which could significantly speed up delivery times and reduce labour costs.

Another emerging model is the rise of ghost kitchens, which are delivery-only kitchens without a physical dining space. These kitchens can operate multiple culinary brands and menus from one location, optimising kitchen operations and maximising delivery efficiency. This model reduces overhead costs associated with traditional restaurant spaces and allows for rapid scaling and flexibility in testing new culinary concepts.

Future predictions for the delivery segment include increased technology integration, with AI and machine learning used to optimise delivery routes and manage orders more efficiently. Additionally, as consumer demand for quicker, more reliable delivery options grows, we expect to see further innovations in logistics and even more partnerships between traditional restaurants and tech companies.



The UK’s takeaway and fast food industry is poised to undergo significant changes in 2024, driven by evolving consumer preferences, technological advancements, and economic factors. The key trends shaping this dynamic sector include integrating sophisticated digital ordering systems, shifting towards healthier menu options with an emphasis on transparency, adopting eco-conscious practices and sustainable packaging, innovations in delivery services, and the strategic use of competitive pricing and value deals.

These trends reflect a broader movement towards convenience, health consciousness, environmental responsibility, and personalisation, indicating a complex interplay between consumer demands and industry capabilities. The industry’s response to these trends showcases its remarkable adaptability and resilience. Fast food and takeaway businesses are not only adopting new technologies and practices but are also reimagining how they engage with customers and operate behind the scenes.

The continued dominance of delivery aggregators and the rise of new business models, such as ghost kitchens, highlight an industry that is innovative and responsive to the needs of a rapidly changing marketplace. Moreover, the increasing focus on sustainability and implementing greener practices demonstrate a commitment to responsible business operations that appeal to the environmentally conscious consumer.

As we look towards the future, the UK’s fast food and takeaway sector shows no signs of stagnation. Its ability to pivot and adapt to new challenges and opportunities will likely be critical to its ongoing success. The industry’s resilience, driven by an unwavering focus on meeting and exceeding consumer expectations, ensures that it will remain at the forefront of the hospitality sector, ready to cater to its diverse customer base’s ever-changing tastes and preferences.


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