Scottish Grocer spoke to two retailing couples who recently invested in food to go and have already seen results
EDINBURGH retailers Dennis and Linda Williams, of Broadway Premier, introduced a new food-to-go concept to their store last year, which they hoped would help offset the impact of a new Aldi opening nearby.
A few months on, how has the Premier Deli worked out?
“It has been a hit. We offer a lot of variety with our menu, which I think is important. I just keep developing new dishes all the time,” said Linda.
“Pasta with meatballs and pasta with chicken and bacon are new this week, couscous as well. I’m surprised, actually, by how many people prefer something healthier at lunchtime. Pleasantly surprised. Our sweet chilli chicken noodles are a huge seller. We sell more of them than we do pies.
“One of Booker’s development chefs came to visit us and really opened my eyes to everything that’s available. I’d never done food to go before. Like anyone with children I could cook, but there are lots of products you won’t know about unless someone shows you – like frozen mashed potato that comes in frozen, in sticks. You just microwave it, and it’s a fantastic product. We have that quite a lot and it’s very popular.
“It’s amazing the dishes that you can put together with what you can buy from Booker. That’s been great. It’s given us a lot of ideas. A lot of people come back for our burger, which is very good and sells for £2.50. We’re very competitive. That’s a deliberate strategy. We need people to come here for food to go, because once they’re coming for that, they’ll start shopping in the store as well.”
Up the road in Kirkcaldy, Asif and Abada Akhtar of Premier Smeaton Stores have just launched a new food-to-go offering of their own.
“A lot of shops our size are really struggling and we thought we really needed to do something to future proof our place,” said Asif.
“We used to have a food counter with a hot dog stand, a small oven and microwave, but it was mainly catering for schoolchildren at lunchtime. We did well in that one hour, but we felt we were missing out and needed an all-day affair. So this is the next step.”
Comprising a slimline coffee machine with counterline display units either side for hot food and freshly-made sandwiches, the new food-to-go section was installed just before Christmas, but already it’s had an impact, helping to boost January sales by 10%.
Asif said: “I sourced the machines myself. The counterline units came from Liverpool and the coffee machine, Papa Chinos, came from Glasgow.
“We tried a couple of different local bakery suppliers. Right now we have Country Choice, which has been the most popular. They also provide things other bakers didn’t, like chicken nuggets, curly fries and so on. That just flies out. So I think this is the supplier we’ll stick with.
“All the sandwich components come from local supplier Fife Creamery. They supply all the fillings and so on, and we make them up ourselves. That, actually, we can’t get enough of. We’re making several batches a day, because the shelves just clear out.
“I sell the coffee at £1 a cup and when people try it they’re very impressed. We’re already up to 30 cups a day. It’s still early days, so I can only see things getting better.”
IGD: Top 5 FTG trends
WITH a predicted worth of £23.5bn by 2022, the UK food-to-go market can be expected to deliver a number of exciting innovations in 2018 and beyond, according to international grocery research organisation IGD, which has identified five trends in particular:
Health and wellness
“We’re seeing the expansion of more healthier food-to-go ranges across the board,” said head of food to go at IGD Gavin Rothwell.
“Data shows that nearly a third of food-to-go consumers are looking for more vegetarian options, 22% for more dairy-free choices and 20% for a larger gluten-free range.”
Changing and expanding reasons to visit
“We’ve witnessed the expansion of gym and protein boxes at several food-to-go specialists in the past year, and we’d expect both niche and mainstream operators alike to become more focused on this in 2018,” said Rothwell.
Even more locations and experimentation
“The growing presence of street food in many markets is encouraging a more flexible approach to companies’ location strategies and is encouraging some to adapt their offer.”
Balance of function and emotion
Rothwell said: “What many food-to-go specialists do well is create emotional engagement with shoppers. Looking ahead to 2018 we expect more retailers across more markets to follow this path.”
More new and unexpected partnerships
Rothwell said: “Businesses are increasingly looking for like-minded partners to enable them to develop in food-to-go. We expect to see a growing number of partnerships like this across more markets in 2018.”