From the bustling streets of Bracknell to the remote villages of Northern Ireland, grab ‘n’ go lifestyles are creating business opportunities for independent retailers everywhere. Speaking to three retailers, RN has found out what works best in different areas.

Arjan Mehr“I work closely with my supplier”

Arjan Mehr’s Londis Supermarket in Bracknell shines a bright spotlight on his food to go section, with an in-store bakery, hot food counter and chilled section. This award-winning retailer’s category “was more of an evolution than a revolution”. “Personally, I believe the key to our success was deciding to partner with Country Choice. Branding, equipment, specialist knowledge and training cannot be replicated in isolation,” says Arjan. Partnering with the supplier 10 years ago, the ‘shop within a shop’ concept that was created proved a successful model that utilised the best of both worlds. “In exchange for exclusivity, they helped us with marketing, training and equipment, with constant top-ups,” he says. Food to go is one of the two key footfall drivers for Arjan’s store, along with the national lottery. Arjan uses food to go as a point of difference against the competition by offering what the multiples cannot: personalised service. Rather than a ready-made boxed breakfast, customers can pick and choose what they want in their cooked fry-up or handmade sandwich. “The fact that it’s made in store, and usually right in front of them, instils confidence in the quality and freshness of our produce,” says Arjan.

“Ducks help reduce our wastage”DSC_1287

Best-one Sunbury owner Alkesh Pankhania manages a similar model, but gets by without teaming up with a supplier. By playing around with arrangements, Alkesh has managed to create incremental sales: “Ever since we got a Rustler’s microwave, Rustler burger sales have tripled. Putting a mini fridge filled with energy drinks underneath helped boost sales too – I find that teenagers will grab a Red Bull while their samosa is heating up,” says Alkesh. To minimise wastage, baking hours are strictly kept to mornings, making exceptions only for personal requests. “We’ll bake if we get a customer ordering fresh bread at lunchtime and they are happy to pay and come back in 20 minutes. This encourages loyalty, and the store smells delicious as a bonus,” says Alkesh. ‘Reduced to clear stickers’ are placed on any leftover baked goods and put near the till to help them sell. “We find that even our stale bread sells – we’re near a canal and some of our customers like to feed the ducks!” he says.

Eddie Poole“Food to go is something we work hard on”

For Eddie Poole, being in a small village where most people nip home for lunch means food to go is not an obvious winner, but this means he just works harder to get it right. By knowing his customers’ demographics, Eddie can cater closely to their tastes to minimise waste and maximise margins. “All my customers are village residents. They like typically British food – no spice, and nothing too exotic. We do not have an Asian population and very little immigration that might vary demand, so it’s easy to know what to make,” he says. Cooked breakfasts are a big driver of morning footfall for the Northern Ireland-based store. The egg and bacon fry up comes out on top as a breakfast-time bestseller. “Chicken curry is a lunchtime favourite as well, and our customers will always buy some sort of soda or hot drink to go with it,” he says.

This week, RN asks suppliers exactly how they have been helping retailers to grow their food to go profits and overcome some of the most common challenges they face in the sector. To find out more, don’t miss our 6 June issue.