While breakfast and lunch steal the limelight, many retailers are grappling with how to make a dinner offer work in store. Max Liu and Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski report.

Colin Smith, Pinkie Farm Convenience Store, Musselburgh

My challenge
Food to go is much easier to do at lunchtime for the obvious reason that people are willing to eat lunch on the go, whereas in the evening they want a more substantial meal. Convenience stores are not the first places people think of for dinner – they’re more likely to go to the supermarket or use takeaways –
so one of the biggest challenges is letting them know we can cater for them for dinner.

My strategy
At Pinkie Farm, we’ve invested in a heated self-service counter that means we can sell hot food until 8.30pm. On the heated shelves our pies and pasties stay warm for two hours. It’s early days but we’re going to expand our range, introducing pizzas and pasta dishes. It will take time but, if we can let our customers know we’re doing food to go for dinner,  I’m confident we will be successful. We just have to stick at it and be prepared for it to take time.

Karen Bull, Spar Crescent Stores, Witney

My challenge
Lunch is responsible for our strongest food to go sales but dinner is definitely a growing area. Presentation is a key part of retail and I’ve found that increased visibility has helped to bring these chilled dinner items to customers’ attention. Since our refit, we’ve been able to stock dinner items that we couldn’t sell in the past. Chilled chicken kievs and fishcakes are both selling well. I put this down, in part, to the new stand-up fridges we’ve installed. Previously, we had low-level fridges and customers couldn’t always see what they were after. In the new fridges, products are more visible.

My strategy
I like to mix up our stock and, if any retailers reading this are thinking about how to approach dinner food to go, I advise them to give different products a go. You never know what will turn out to be popular with your customers until you bring products into your store and see if they sell. Richmond part-baked sausages are a good example. We couldn’t sell them before but customers have been buying them recently.  

Amandeep Singh, Singh’s Convenience Premier, Barnsley

My challenge
Food to go makes up 7%-10% of our business and it’s definitely grown in the past couple of years. It’s popular at lunchtime and we get a healthy amount of passing trade. We always do the Booker sandwich deal for £3 but we also do quite well selling hot food to kids on their way home from school. Hot dogs have been a big hit and we sell about 20 day. Burgers and chicken wraps also go down well. We are selling about 10 every day. I’m not sure if those items count as dinner – you’d have to ask the kids.

My strategy
We are interested in introducing a Subway franchise by 2020. There’s no doubt that dinner as food to go is difficult for us. At the moment, fewer people come in for that in this residential, family-orientated area. They prefer ready meals in the evening so we have other no plans to develop food to go for dinner at the moment.  

Check out parts two and three in this series over the coming days