- By 2021, McDonald’s was considered the country’s best QSR (quick-service restaurant) brand according to the year’s YouGov APAC Dining & QSR Rankings.
- McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut have been the top three fast food favourites among Malaysians for the past three years.
- Lunchtime is the most favoured time of day to eat fast food in the country.
- 76% of Malaysian survey respondents ordered fast food via food delivery apps in 2020.
- By mid-2020, 75% of survey respondents named Food Panda as their food delivery app of choice.
- A survey conducted by Vase.ai showed 65% of Malaysians preferred cashless food delivery services during the Recovery Movement Control Order period (mid-2020).
- Since the RMCO, Malaysians have also made food delivery orders at least once per week.
- Malaysia’s bounce-back QSR rate was at an impressive 80% – 85% by the last quarter of 2020.
Malaysian Fast Food and Delivery Services In Recent Years
To say that Malaysians like eating fast food and ordering in would be an understatement. This is not a lofty statement, but one based on reliable surveys and studies results culled from recent years.
Even before the pandemic struck, the Journal of Marketing Advances and Practices published a paper in 2018 on how the food delivery industry in Malaysia was on the fast track to becoming the “new normal”. It described the projected US$956 million annual revenue the country can expect by 2022, thanks to its emerging food delivery businesses.
In 2019, 87% of Malaysians dined out at least once a week in venues ranging from street food stalls and fast food joints to diners and cafes. A 2019 Technomic report on Malaysia’s food services industry mentioned data on the country’s US$19 billion yearly revenue.
When COVID-19 struck the country, a Rakuten Insight survey revealed that in June 2020, 76% of its Malaysian respondents ordered fast food via food delivery apps. In the same month and year, Foodpanda became the most-used app among Malaysians for food delivery services.
Furthermore, RMCO-related food delivery data gathered by Vase.ai revealed that:
- 78% of Malaysians ordered via food delivery services at least once a week during the lockdown.
- 98% of Malaysians have relied on food delivery services since RMCO started.
- 45% preferred contactless deliveries while 65% opted for cashless deliveries.
- 51% only ordered from restaurants they’re already familiar with.
As to what the most prevalent meal of the day ordered on these apps was? It’s lunchtime!
Which Fast Food Chains Do Malaysians Prefer?
Burgers, chicken, and pizza. These were on top of the fast food favourites list of Malaysians in recent years.
The 2021 Dining and QSR rankings data from YouGov shows how QSR brands in Malaysia have been performing during the pandemic. Brands with the highest index score (among adults 18 years old and above) between March 1, 2020, and February 28, 2021, are featured here.
YouGov’s methodology used ranking based on the index score measuring the brand’s overall health. Brand health was calculated using the following factors:
Using this methodology, McDonald’s got the top ranking with a 50.9 score, followed by KFC with 46.9, and Pizza Hut garnering 3.0.
YouGov based the scores on average data culled between March 1, 2020, to February 28, 2021. Using the same data timeline, YouGov also ranked the most improved dining and QSR brands in Malaysia.
For the improvement table, the brands were tracked for at least six months in the previous year’s period.
This time around, KFC came out on top with a score of 46.9 from 38.2 the previous year (a +8.7 difference), and Pizza Hut coming in at second with a 30.0 score for 2021 (a +7.0 change from its previous 23.0).
Of the 76% respondents on the Rakuten Insight survey about delivery apps in mid-2020, 57% of them preferred ordering local cuisine. 19% ordered food from international quick-service restaurants (QSR).
Fast Food and Meal Consumption Habits During MCO and RMCO
Because of the lockdowns and other pandemic-related restrictions, the country’s dining and food sectors encountered some challenges. As a response, many QSRs and restaurants opted to shift toward home delivery and takeaway systems for the time being.
Compared to QSRs, independent food services struggled more with the limitations and restrictions imposed by the lockdown. To show how Malaysia’s QSRs fared during the pandemic, the LEK consulting group shared the impact of COVID-19 on cooking at home, dining out, and takeaway meals.
The graph below shows the percentage of meals consumed by Malaysian respondents before COVID-19, during and after the lockdown, and after vaccines were developed.
Before the pandemic, 25% were dine-out meals, 16% were takeaway or food deliveries, and 59% were cooked at home. There’s a marked difference when the lockdown (mid-2020) was imposed because 80% of meals were prepared at home while 20% were still from takeaway food or delivery.
During the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, no meals were consumed from dining out. Dine-in operations were banned during this time.
The “new normal” that has come to include the RMCO period has seen a significant number of Malaysians preferring to put off fast food and restaurant ventures. Instead, a large percentage has opted to cook from home.
The term “cooking from home” covers a wide scope, of course. This article by The Rakyat Post on consumer dining behavior during the RMCO reveals how 72% of home-cooked meals were considered “elaborate”, 47% preferred meals that can be cooked in 15 minutes, with 30% of the latter not minding instant noodles and canned food as meals.
Once the lockdown was lifted and RMCO was imposed, 11% of meals were eaten at restaurants or outdoor spots while 69% were prepared and consumed from home. And once vaccination went underway, dine-out meals rose to 23% while 17% were delivered or taken out from restaurants.
Malaysia was one of the South East Asian countries to have managed the pandemic well as far as QSR services are concerned. At the peak of its lockdown, there was a 30% – 35% decline in QSR demand.
However, Malaysia’s bounce-back QSR rate was at an impressive 80% – 85% by the last quarter of 2020. This was largely the result of the country’s strong pandemic response.
The Average Caloric Content Of The Top 3 Malaysian Fast Food Favorites
With burgers, chicken, and pizza being the top three preferred fast food among Malaysians, which are high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. These all directly contribute to obesity.
Malaysia had the highest prevalence of obese and overweight people in the Southeast Asian region. This was based on an ASEAN 2019 report showing over 15% of the country’s population being classified as obese.
A National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2019 also revealed that 1 in 2 adult Malaysians is obese. In the same survey, one out of two of the entire Malaysian population also had central obesity (excessive abdominal fat).
Another study focusing on dietary intake and obesity was done in 2019 and among 490 participating Malaysian adults, 52.8% of them were obese.
Their 3-day, 24-hour dietary details revealed that they consumed fewer fruits, vegetables, and dairy products than the recommended amount for a healthy diet. The obese male participants also ate more servings of meals that are high in carbohydrates, oil, sugar, and fat compared to their female counterparts.
Fast food has made its way into typical Malaysian lunch and dinner meals. The charts below serve to illustrate how many calories there are in common fast food fares like burgers, pizzas, and fried chicken.
In particular, nutritional information is culled from Nutritionix’s guide on McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and KFC calorie guides.
Of course, other factors contribute to obesity such as a sedentary lifestyle, genetics, and lack of proper exercise. But Malaysia is largely a culture that, according to the UKM head of the Upper Gastrointestinal, Obesity and Metabolic Surgery department, “generally eats lots of unhealthy foods.”
Most Used Food Delivery Apps By Age Group in Malaysia (By June 2020)
There’s a Rakuten Insight study on the delivery app habits of various age groups in Malaysia. It was conducted in the second quarter of 2020, roughly around the same time as the RMCO.
The infographic below shows how 79% of Malaysian survey respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 preferred Foodpanda as their food delivery app of choice at this time. 64% of the same age group also used GrabFood, while 13% used other food delivery apps.
As for teenagers and those in their early 20s, 77% preferred Foodpanda. In the same age group of survey respondents (16 – 24 year-olds), 58% also used GrabFood while 4% utilized other types of food delivery apps.
This illustrates that during the time of RMCO, Foodpanda was the favorite among the majority of the different age groups who responded to the Rakuten Insight survey. GrabFood followed as the second most preferred food delivery app.
However, the percentages shifted slightly among survey respondents who were 55 years or older at the time. 59% of them preferred to order via GrabFood while 55% also used Foodpanda as the next most preferred delivery app.
With all the data and trends pointing to increasing usage of food delivery apps during the pandemic, it just remains to be seen how percentages of users among different age groups will remain stable, spike, or decline as more new food delivery apps are introduced in the food and beverage industry.
As for tackling the country’s rising obesity issue, the Malaysian government has declared taking a hard stance against it a few years ago. A July 2017 article on the GovInsider website featured an interview with a consultant from the Ministry of Health about implementing hard policies to curb obesity.
Dr. Feisul Mustapha mentioned the introduction of a “soda tax” (whose implementation began in July 2019) for all ready-to-drink sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). The SSBs are subjected to a duty of RM0.40/litre and cover both soda products imported into or manufactured within Malaysia.
Local government support has also been tapped to dedicated certain spaces in their communities for “active living”. Dr. Mustapha recalls the efforts of the former mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib, who introduced “car-free mornings” and who closed off certain sections of the city to encourage running and biking activities.
However, given the pandemic-related movement control order periods, Malaysians have stayed put in their homes and have seemingly neglected outdoor exercises. A Selangor Journal article from June 2020 mentioned how Malaysian netizens have been complaining about weight gain during the lockdown period, citing online delivery food services as “easy”.
A May 2020 Tweet from Malaysia’s Ministry of Health also stated that “50% of Malaysians are currently obese”.