While breakfast and lunch steal the limelight, many retailers are grappling with how to make a dinner offer work in store. The second part in this series offers an alternative view.

Meal solutions are our profit drivers

Scott Graham, McLeish, Inverurie 
We’ve enjoyed more success with meal solutions. We work with other business to source local produce and put together dinner packs which we sell in our shop. One of the most popular is the stir-fry, in which the butcher provides the meat and the veg is added. Customers can take that home and have it ready in 15 minutes. For us, meal solutions for dinner are a better option than food to go dinners. Food to go, in general, is a massive part of our business – around 30% – but dinner has proved so difficult that we’re no longer doing it. There are a few reasons why it didn’t work. One is location. There’s a fish and chip shop near us, and a Chinese takeaway, so customers wanting a quick evening meal can go there. Food to go for dinner might work in a city centre store but, in our village location we’re not ideally placed to catch people on their way home from work. There are other practical challenges involved in food to go for dinner. If you’re offering hot food then keeping it fresh is tricky, as you can only leave it on a hotplate for four hours. 

Five things we learned about the future of food to go
Two weeks ago, food to go experts gathered to hear the latest research, trends and innovations from the industry. Here’s five things we learned:

1.    Healthier products will grow food to go sales
New IGD research suggests that 31% of customers would be more likely to eat more regularly “on the go” if there were appealing healthier options available. Current industry investment – both from independent retailers such as Budgens’ Paul Gardner and supermarkets – is focused on increasing healthier options.

2.    ‘Three meals a day’ is dying
With the rise in snacking comes a new structure of eating among many consumers, IGD has predicted. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be replaced as on-the-go snacks and coffee become more substantial parts of consumers’ diets. It’s all good news, IGD says, for retailers offering great food to go.    

3.    Open kitchens are a new food to go trend
Waitrose operates four around the country already and this is a trend that’s growing internationally. If you’re going to grow sales of freshly made sandwiches, salads and other meal options, opening up your kitchen to customers helps build extra trust.

4.   There are four reasons that customers might choose you
Mission or occasion, mood, companions and speed are the four factors going through a consumer’s mind when they pick where to eat, according to IGD. Work out what you’re able to offer and this will help focus your range and improve your service.

5.    Convenience has a (particularly) big opportunity
Food to go is going to grow in convenience at just over 6% between now and 2022, according to IGD. This means this fast-growing category will see a higher increase in stores than in fast food outlets like KFC and McDonald’s as well as supermarkets.