Analysis

The emerging food-to-go trend

Within the food and drink industry, the food-to-go sector is booming and IGD has even forecasted that it will be worth £23.5bn by 2022. Within the sector, many different types of organisation are looking at how they can capitalise on consumers’ love affair with quick, convenient food. They should also be looking at what technologies they can be taking advantage of to grow faster.

High-street restaurant brands going grab-and-go

Established restaurant brands are starting to experiment with sub-brands focusing on food-to-go. The Restaurant Group has developed a grab-and-go spin-off of the Wagamama brand, which it will trial later this year. The concept is being trialled under the name of Mamago. Also this spring, Pizza Express launched ZA, a food-to-go brand, in its London Fenchurch Street site, with a model offering both food to go and dine-in. The menu will centre around the brand’s pizzas, sold by the slice and with the same toppings available in a wrap. For brands looking to capture the interest of the busy shopper or office worker, enabling customers to order their purchase ahead on their mobile phone or computer, before picking up their lunch, is a logical next step.

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Blurring retail and restaurant

Retailers are also looking at ways to keep their shoppers in-store, and experimenting with having food-to-go concession concepts in stores. For example, The Restaurant Group has just become the latest operator to trial concessions in Sainsbury’s stores with the launch of Grains & Greens, salad boxes, and Mezze Box, Lebanese food.

Sainsbury’s isn’t the only retailer inviting food-to-go brands into the store – Marks & Spencer has been working with Wasabi since 2017 and Tesco announced a rollout of instore-kiosks with Yo! Sushi in 2018. In the Republic of Ireland, BWG’s SPAR stores are bringing in new food-to-go concepts including coffee shops and sandwich stores such as Subway. Many food-to-go brands like this are already using digital ordering to great effect. For example, sandwich shop Greggs, sushi restaurant K10, and soup and salad brand Vital Ingredient are all using online and mobile ordering to enable customers to quickly and conveniently order food. This is exactly the kind of thing concession brands in retail establishments should be trying.

Forecourts

According to research group IGD, over half of shoppers (54%) say they stop at a forecourt for food or drink regardless of whether they need fuel. The research also showed that 59% of forecourt shoppers bought a drink on the go in the previous four weeks. Forecourt service stations should therefore be regarded as food and drink destinations in their own right, and service station operators should think about themselves in that way and equip themselves with the tools needed. For these consumers, it’s not about fine dining or a relaxed experience and digital ordering technology helps. While some of the bigger forecourt companies, BP and Shell, have bought out pre-pay apps for petrol, these (mostly) haven’t extended to the goods inside the forecourt. Hopefully this isn’t a trick that will be missed for long as busy travellers and locals would like to cut down on the time they must spend in-store.

The ultimate food-to-go buffet – food halls

Food halls are about as flexible as you can get when it comes to a quick dining out experience. Although food halls typically have a wide variety of dishes and cuisines, they can suffer from long lines, which can make it a frustrating experience. Food halls are designed to give customers a varied and exciting dining experience so imagine how much better that experience could be if the awkward food delay was negated. If these food halls had their own ordering app, they could be. Alternatively, the individual restaurant brands can get ahead with their own apps. For example, our client, healthy eating brand Squirrel, has a site within the Market Halls near Victoria station. Customers wanting to order their food can do so through the website or by downloading the Squirrel app from the App Store or Google Play.

For consumers looking for a quick food fix, these food-to-go concepts are a blessing, but their customer experience can be enhanced further by enabling them to order before they even arrive at the store, most conveniently, using their mobile phones. We look forward to the next stage in the evolution of grab-and-go food, enhanced by technology.  


By Nick Hucker, CEO of pre-ordering technology provider, Preoday

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