INDIA – Westlife Development Ltd, which owns Hardcastle Restaurants, the master franchisee of McDonald’s restaurants for western and southern India, has announced plans to adding more stores to its network.

A company official privy to the matter said that the company plans to open three new stores in this quarter and then resume its growth journey of adding 25-40 stores every year from the next fiscal.

These plans are a show of confidence by the McDonald’s franchisee that business in the fast-food sector will return to pre-COVID-19 level as from the next quarter

“If the momentum of consumer confidence continues, we will achieve and hopefully exceed pre-COVID-19 levels in the next 2-3 months,” Westlife Development Vice-Chairman Amit Jatia said.

He added that in the coming quarters, through the in-store business, the company will continue to grow, the convenience channels will be there, and here to stay.

Jatia is confident that convenience channels are here to stay as they serve the need for a place where people come for hang-outs and celebrate.

The vice chair of Westlife Development notes that business has already gone up and the company almost reached pre-COVID-19 numbers in December.

He further projected that as from January onwards, “things would look good for us. I am seeing consumption coming back and decent sentiment due to the vaccine. I am also seeing in-store business also comes back.”

Currently, Westlife Development operates 304 McDonald’s stores in 42 cities of the western and southern India.

Jatia says that around 60-70 per cent of new stores would come in the six key cities – Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad; and the rest 30 per cent into smaller towns.

Westlife’s expansion follow a decision by Mumbai state to extend the working hours of restaurants from 11pm to 1am, a move consumers to eat as per their convenience and help adhere to social distancing norms.
Before the Covid lockdown, restaurants and bars were allowed to be open till 1.30am. The extension is another signal yet that restaurant business in India is close to returning to full normalcy.

Hoteliers through their body, The Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR), applauded the move and noted that that the additional half an hour can be restored soon, given the industry’s track record in implementing Covid norms.

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