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Food to Go - Cash in on meal times

Over the last few years, there has been a definitive shift in how food is consumed.  Today’s consumers are time poor and increasingly reliant on simple, convenient and quick meal time solutions which has resulted in a shift towards lighter, more frequent meals.

According to him! research, 35% of UK adults are now eating out more often which has resulted in the market being flooded with service industries adding ‘Food to Go’ to their offerings.  And with over a quarter of Convenience Store shoppers going in-store for ‘Food to Go’, there is a huge opportunity for retailers to grab a bigger share of this £20.2bn market.  Getting the proposition right is vital as it will mean additional footfall in-store as well as the store becoming a real destination.  So how can retailers maximise the ‘Food to Go’ opportunity? 

Invest in ‘Food to Go’

You need to be serious about it and think it through.  It takes time and effort to getFood to Go’ right” comments Retailer Advisory Panel member, David Charman.  Investing both time and finances are necessary however, if done right, the return on investment can be very fruitful. 


Don’t be put off with the words ‘financial investment’ – food solution providers such as Country Choice and Delice de France will provide key equipment such as ovens, display equipment, packaging and labelling systems as well as all the necessary training.  Additionally, having a known brand will add credibility to the range so this is worth taking into consideration.  Working with a food solution provider will take a lot of pressure off however it will impact on margins.  It may therefore be worth retailers putting up the initial investment to maximise the return on investment in the long run. 

Get the Range Right

Global influences are becoming more prevalent and as such, ‘Food to Go’ shouldn’t just be limited to the basics like sandwiches and sausage rolls.  Retailers should look at incorporating more exotic options alongside traditional products and offer a good range, including fresh salads, sandwiches and wraps.  And with health becoming a key trend, it is worth pushing the boundaries to include gluten and dairy free, veggie and super foods options should these be appropriate to your customer base.  Plus, there’s the opportunity to charge a premium for these!

Initially, the best option is to start with pre-packaged sandwiches, salads and meals and then, should there be enough demand and you have the space for it, start making your own in-store” comments Retailer Advisory Panel member Kay Patel.

FTG 1.jpg

Location, Location, Location

It is imperative that retailers know their local area and more importantly, their competition.  Stores located in busier urban areas which tend to offer a plethora of ‘Food to Go’ services such as Subways, Cafés, Delis etc need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.  Whether it is tailoring your stock to ensure that your offerings are different, or alternatively, finding an angle which differentiates your store from local competitions.  For example, go premium or offer deals which are hugely competitive and therefore appealing to customers.

For stores located in student areas, it is worth including hot options as younger shoppers prefer these.  Why not move your Pot Snacks to the front of the store as these are hugely popular with students given their low-price point.  “We get a lot of students in the store so moving Pot Snacks to the front of the store made sense.  It’s only been a few weeks but so far the sales figures are looking very positive” comments Kay Patel.

Presentation is key

Make sure that your ‘Food to Go’ offering ooks enticing. “Fresh food creates an inspiring, visual experience for the shopper, and is a great place to start the shopping journey through the store” according to Nick Widdowson, Partners for Growth Controller. 

Space availability dependent, having a dedicated counter for ‘Food to Go’ gives retailers the opportunity to maximise the Shopper Mission.  Place the fixture towards the front of the store, ensuring your customers have easy access to it and it benefits from high visibility.  It is also worth placing the ‘Food to Go’ counter in the proximity to fresh meat and fish as this is a great way of encouraging a larger basket spend.

Group relevant items together such as sandwiches, crisps and soft drinks to make it easier for shoppers to select their products.   And why not site fresh fruit nearby to encourage those incremental sales.  Additionally, use simple signage to communicate its location, offers and to draw in customers.

 FTG3.jpgCoffee & ‘Food to Go’

Increasing numbers of retailers are investing in Coffee to Go machines, and linking ‘Food to Go’ and a coffee through an offer has become common place in Convenience Stores.  It is worth positioning the bakery goods and ‘Food to Go’ nearby to encourage cross category purchasing.  

Simplify the shopping process with Meal Deals

Ensuring your price-point is competitive plays a vital role in encouraging repeat business.  Meal Deals offer a great opportunity to increase basket spend whilst offering the perception of good value to customers.  “When we launched Meal Deals in-store, we saw a 25% uplift in sales.  But the key was to keep it simple to avoid confusing the customer” comments Retailer Advisory Panel member Jonathan James.

Avoid Wastage

Many of the ingredients required for ‘Food to Go’ will already be available in-store so there is no need to invest in additional stock, avoiding the added risk of them going out of date.  Kay Patel recommends the “use of short date produce as ingredients for the ‘Food to Go’ offerings.  For example, ripe tomatoes taste so much better than unripened ones so using them can help reduce wastage.”

Retailer David Charman employs a qualified Chef in-store who creates inventive and delicious ‘Food to Go’ goods whilst utilizing products on their way out.  This not only reduces wastage but also ensures that customers are offered variety alongside more traditional goods such as bacon baps and sausage rolls.

Share, Share, Share

Above all, don’t forget to share your offers with your customers through the likes of Social Media.  “Availability is key – if your customers don’t know you have it, they won’t come in-store so let them know!” comments Retailer Advisory Panel member Mandeep Singh.