Future demand for delivery may be hard to predict but the market is not going to go away, Five Guys UK chief executive John Eckert has told MCA.

He said that while instore dining will cannibalise part of the delivery market once the hospitality sector can reopen fully, he believes that “delivery is here to stay”. “I think it has become part of our lives and what we view as normal, so I suspect that will continue,” explained Eckbert.

He also confirmed recent reports that Five Guys had doubled its new openings target for 2021 for the UK – from the 10 to 12 sites it had originally planned, to up to 25.

“We think there is a lot of opportunity in the market and think that there will be some great sites and good opportunities coming through,” he said.

The business, which now has 100% of its stores open and trading is enjoying a particular uplift to outdoor trading in sites that are located near to shopping centres or high streets, with footfall returning to these areas “really useful and helping to drive sales”, he said.

Eckbert said the business has been lucky in that it has been able to remain operational from many of its sites during lockdown, therefore he doesn’t view restrictions lifting as the business “restarting”.

“We won’t have any employees on furlough in the next few weeks – that’s a big milestone for us,” he said.

However he added that for those returning from furlough, getting them back to the top of their game will take some “refreshing, reminding and relearning”, particularly given the addition of sales channels like its curbside pick-up model – introduced during the pandemic, and click and collect, which are unfamiliar to some staff. “The people coming back are having to catch up on all that,” he added.