As McDonald's heads upmarket and the last of the red-roofed Pizza Hut restaurants closes, New Zealand's fast food industry is evolving as brands look to stay relevant in a changing industry.

Around the world fast food chains are diversifying, with Starbucks in London and McDonald's in Korea offering alcohol to patrons, and Burger King globally applying for a liquor license.

In a fast changing sector we take a look at some of the major trends for 2016.

A move to gourmet:

Although it's not quite the end of cheeseburgers and happy meals, McDonald's has been making moves away from its traditional fast food operation and into the gourmet cafe-style space. Last year the company began trialling table service and a new gourmet "create your taste" menu that allows customers to customise their burgers from scratch with a choice of 20 ingredients including jalapenos, guacamole and grilled mushrooms.


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It also launched a new gourmet breakfast menu at its Greenlane restaurant late last year with a menu that included avocado smash, Belgian waffles and corn fritters.

Pizza companies Pizza Hut and Domino's have also been offering customers upmarket options with customisable pizzas and Domino's chefs best range catering to those willing to spend a bit more on quality ingredients and flavours.

Drive in, drive out:

The last of Pizza Hut's restaurants closing next month is not just an end of an era but a shift in the way consumers are wanting to eat their food. Formerly the go-to for sports team celebrations, catch ups and birthday dinners, the buffet restaurant has shifted to quick and easy takeaways. Smaller shops offer cheaper leases for the company and fast takeaway options for shoppers. Polarising trends towards quick and easy or quality sit-down have seen offerings such as Pizza Hut's restaurants declining in business.

Next month will mark the end of an era for pizza lovers as the last Pizza Hut eat-in restaurant in Auckland's New Lynn is demolished.
Next month will mark the end of an era for pizza lovers as the last Pizza Hut eat-in restaurant in Auckland's New Lynn is demolished.

Real Food:

Free range, locally sourced, dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian are now common options at most fast food joints as restaurants begin to cater not only for those with allergies but also those wanting to know where their food has come from and how it was produced.

Earlier this month McDonald's announced a multi-million dollar investment programme to improve the nutritional content of its menu, with reductions in sodium and using sunflower and canola oil as well as its continued move towards using only free-range eggs. Sugar reduction was a target for the company and gluten-free and the company had also begun to offer proper vegetarian options at some of its restaurants.


Almost every fast food chain in New Zealand is now offering an app either for ordering or delivery and several companies are taking this one step further. McDonalds 'create your taste' menu uses a digital kiosk to build your burger in some of its restaurants. Ordering apps also allow customers to place an order and pick it up when ready quickly and easily, without waiting too long.

Ordering via mobile app is also beneficial for the company, giving them a new way to get customer data, suggest add-ons, and deliver orders directly to the kitchen. Technology and social media is also being used to push promotions to customers and test ideas on their target markets.