Following the success of Eat 17 in London, the team behind the chain have taken a risk by straying from their previous model for the new Whitstable store – but it’s earned them an average basket spend of £30.
“It’s been tailored to suit the customer base,” says Sam Cornelius, who manages the store.
Location: Whitstable, Kent
Hours: 8am-9pm Mon-Sat, 8am-9pm Sun
Size: 2,500sq ft
Trading since: July 2016
“The other stores serve burgers or pizzas, but because we’re in a small town we thought we’d offer the locals something they can pick and choose from – that’s how they prefer to shop. It’s more of a neighbourhood shop here; in London, people want to be in and out as fast as possible.”
In November, Eat 17 Whitstable opened a deli bar, where shoppers can create their own salads, sandwiches and more. Customers are also catered for with specialised vegan and free-from ranges.
“A lot of people come in purely because we sell vegetarian and vegan foods – nowhere else in Whitstable stocks it like we do,” says Sam. “We also have upmarket ranges that you wouldn’t get elsewhere.”
Local is a big driver for the store, and its Kent location gives them much to choose from. “Our partnership with Spar means we stock their everyday essentials and run their promotions, coupled with the ranges we get in from local suppliers,” says Sam. “The rest of the shop is up to us – there’s no percentage we have to keep to. That flexibility is key.”
Using this flexibility, the team has added a lot of creative flair to appeal to their customers.
“A lot of our shoppers are local and probably a bit older, so they’re the type of people that want to pick up a basket and have a look around,” Sam says. “They tend to be looking for a specific product, such as a fancy bottle of wine.”
To help shoppers on these missions, the store has been uniquely decorated. A ‘wine wall’ features six bottles complete with descriptions of their flavour, while small pointers on the shelves indicate the products that fall into the store’s vegetarian and vegan ranges.
“We’ve started a wine refill scheme,” Sam adds. “Shoppers buy an empty bottle and fill it with their wine of choice, then they can refill for a lower price. It’s really taken off – and people actually like doing it themselves. If you offer to help, they turn you down.”
Sam says the interactive nature of the store has helped increase basket spend, with the average spend creeping towards £35.
“Since we opened the deli, the space has been really interactive. The deli and wine refill areas are like a market place. We’ve got a cake table there and it’s where we have sampling every Friday,” he says.
“If people interact, they stay longer – it’s more like a food and drink experience than grocery shopping. If you go to Sainsbury’s or the Co-op it feels very clinical, whereas it’s much more enjoyable here.”
As well as creating theatre to drive footfall, the store lures customers in with a unique loyalty offer.
“If they spend £15 they get a free coffee,” Sam explains. “It brings people back and makes them spend a little bit more. It works because it’s achievable – you get the reward there and then rather than having to wait until you can claim it.”