Salt in the wound as fast food chains win battle

Esther Han
Outnumbered: Maroubra Saltwater's former and current owners, Nick Glynatsis and Hout Lim.
Outnumbered: Maroubra Saltwater's former and current owners, Nick Glynatsis and Hout Lim. Photo: Peter Rae

Battered, crumbed or grilled, Nick Glynatsis has served fish for all tastes at his corner store for nearly 20 years. But he faces a battle for survival with the number of fast food chain stores outstripping independent ones for the first time in Australia's history, a report shows.

"We first opened our fish and chip shop in September 1994 - back then it was us and a hamburger place," Mr Glynatsis said from behind the counter at Maroubra Saltwater on Anzac Parade.

Now two stores down is Domino's Pizza, and within a 100-metre radius sit a McDonald's, an Eagle Boys, a Red Rooster and a Subway. More people are drawn to the area, but the positive impacts are minimal for Maroubra Saltwater .

A BIS Shrapnel report released on Thursday shows the global financial crisis wreaked havoc on independent food joints. Five hundred shop closed between 2005 and 2009 and numbers are yet to recover.

In striking contrast, it's boom time for fast food companies. Fast food chain stores have grown 5 per cent each year since 2005. Snack food chains such as Muffin Break and Donut King have grown at twice that rate.

"I did lose customers, it did slow down," said Mr Glynatsis, who still works at the shop he sold to Hout Lim two years ago. "But if people want fish and chips, they'll come to us."

The Domino's pizza chain has added 80 stores in the past five years, bumping the total outlet number to 589. Spokeswoman Tracy Stephenson pinned the brand's success on store refurbishments, willingness to adapt and a strong social media presence. "With our menu expanding to include offerings such as gluten-free options, great value product and more desserts, we have made sure Domino's has something to suit the whole family," she said.

McDonald's has grown by 126 stores nationally.

The overall fast food market is experiencing a post-GFC boom. Australians have spent $11 billion on food and $4 billion on drinks in the past 12 months.

The report showed 141 million hamburger meals and 193 million cups of hot chips were dished out in the same period, making these the most popular fast food products. It also shows women are the biggest devourers of fast food, making up 56 per cent of the market.

And the percentage of fast food consumers earning between $50,000 and $100,000 was far greater than for those earning $50,000 and under, demolishing the belief fast food was for "the working class", BIS Shrapnel's Sissel Rosengren said. "That couldn't be further from the truth."

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