Booker is helping Premier stores by providing greater support for food to go, according to shop owners who have had recent meetings with their retail development managers.

The wholesaler held a meeting with five retailers at its Gorton Depot in Manchester on 5 December. Paresh Vyas, of Premier Droylsden, attended the meeting and told betterRetailing the company has a “three-year plan” to boost sales in stores through equipment such as coffee machines, its trademarked Just Desserts Co. bars, slush machines and hot food-to-go propositions. 

“There were Premier and Family Shopper retailers in attendance with an area manager and regional development manager,” he said. 

“They want all Premier stores looking at [food to go]. The message was that it’s not just going to be selling baked beans and bread. You need to diversify. 

“It’s about being a destination, and they’ll tell you where to put the equipment and how to sell it.”

The Retail Success Handbook: Food to go

Premier brand director Martyn Parkinson said that food to go forms a ‘box’ in the brand’s ‘nine box’ plan alongside events, technology, chilled and prepared foods, trends and habit forming.

He explained: “We have been encouraging retailers to get into food to go for a number of years, and the best way to start is to introduce a good-quality coffee solution. 

Every convenience retailer should have coffee and then look to build a food-to-go offering, whether it’s the first step of sandwich meal deals or scaling up to a serve-over dessert bar, depending on the local market. Having a good coffee offer drives footfall into store and, like all food-to-go items, provides higher margins than traditional categories such as tinned grocery and newspapers.   

“We’ve recently introduced a coffee solution for retailers. With these exclusive deals for Booker customers, retailers could make up to £22,000 extra profit a year. They have the option to either buy or lease the machine, which can be plumbed and installed free of charge (tanks are also available). The three options available ensure there is a solution to suit any independent convenience store.”  

Raju Patel, owner of Premier Eldred Drive Stores in Orpington, Kent, said: “We’ve got a small amount of space, but our retail development manager has been brilliant in helping us find relevant new services. We’ve been talking about adding popcorn and milkshake machines.”

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Another Premier retailer, who asked not to be named, told betterRetailing: “They’re asking about food to go in every discussion I’m having with them – what we’re going to do and how we’re going to manage it. 

“They’re looking at all the options around it, and they’ve got preferred suppliers as well.”

Simon Dixon, owner of Premier Lower Darwen, said he was in discussions with the Premier team about further developments in food to go. 

“We had a £10,000 food-to-go refit two years ago, but we got it wrong and we’ve just ripped it out,” he explained. “I’ve been looking at countertop rather than built-in units. It enables shops to move with the times by changing elements as needed.”

Vas Vakeria, of Premier Lever Edge in Bolton, also said he was looking into adding a dessert bar combined with a deli-served sandwich franchise.

Vyas and the anonymous store owner said financing new equipment is the biggest hurdle to following Booker’s advice. “The equipment isn’t cheap,” said Vyas. “For people like me, investing £4,000-£5,000 on equipment would be an issue.” 

Listening to their customers was key to Andrew and Coleen Johnson’s food to go success