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How food-to-go is hotting up in London

Sainsbury's, Costa, Pret and Planet Organic have all unveiled new concepts in London around food-to-go over the last few months. Find out more here

About this article

Following our recently published market report on UK food-to-go, IGD Senior Retail Insight Manager Gavin Rothwell explores some of 2016’s key London openings in the food-to-go arena.

1. Veggie Pret, Broadwick St, Soho

Possibly the highest profile food outlet opening in London this year, it's actually a recalibration of an existing store rather than a completely new opening – a test bed to see how new products work with a pre-existing customer base.

Originally set to open just in June, exceeding internal sales expectations means it has remained open all summer and shows little sign of shutting down yet.

Source: IGD research

2. Planet Organic, Tottenham Court Road

Like Pret, Planet Organic has an organic and health-oriented focus, but as a concept straddles retail and food-to-go, and, in contrast to Pret, remains focused on London.

Planet Organic’s latest store represents a major step forward, with the design, location and features of the store helping to raise its profile beyond established devotees.

The obvious comparisons with Whole Foods Market in how it caters for both retail and food-to-go/foodservice missions only strengthen its ‘destination’ status.

Source: IGD research

3. Costa Fresco, Tottenham Court Road

Costa Fresco opened at the very end of last year but is still a key consideration in helping to inform broader concept plans.

There is just one store in Central London, but the lunchtime offer in particular has a much stronger focus on food than other Costa locations; a broader range of sandwiches and baguettes and a limited hot food offer are among the more noticeable differences, both of which create more reasons for shoppers to visit at different times.

There are clear opportunities here for broader roll out in the right locations, with the range developments taking Costa into Pret or EAT territory.

Source: IGD research

4. Mercato Metropolitano, Newington Causeway

Open since June 2016, Mercato Metropolitano is a concept from Turin that's been widely compared to Eataly because of the focus on Italian food, and the retail/restaurant crossover positioning. However, this is Eataly with a Shoreditch twist: it’s more designed around on-site food and drink consumption, with street food vendors thrown in, and there's less retail theatre than you would see at Eataly. Nonetheless, it's an interesting concept and one that's worth a look.

Source: IGD research

5. Sainsbury's Local, Holborn

Sainsbury's mini-convenience store is another that came to the marketing in 2015 rather than 2016, but it's nonetheless an interesting take on how a retailer more used to much larger formats has adapted its offer to focus solely on the missions of food-for-now and food-for-tonight. In this sense, it's an ‘ultraconvenience’ store, moving firmly into food-to-go territory.

Source: IGD research

6. McDonald's, Oxford St

McDonald’s on Oxford Street is very much a ‘new look’ McDonald's in design and tech; most customers here channel through the giant vertical ordering pads in-store, rather than ordering at-till (although a small counter remains for those who don't want to use the ordering pads).

It adopts many of the same principles adopted by stores such as Argos, where separating order from collection has freed up staff, creating a faster, improved experience for customers.

Other operators, most notably healthy eating specialist Tossed, have gone further by converting selected stores to be entirely cashless, with all ordering via self-serve kiosks.

Source: IGD research

7. Pod, Kingsway

Not perhaps as radical an evolution as some of the other formats, but a visit to this store helps bring to life two key current trends:

  1. A focus on lighter, airier formats to encourage dwell time (with boosted eat-in space and improved decor)
  2. Greater emphases on ‘lifestyle’ foods, with ranges that move beyond pure superfoods to packs for specific functions, such as gym boxes, designed to give pre-workout energy, and protein boxes

In this way, we see food-to-go specialists increasingly crossing over into what might have traditionally been the territory of specialist sports bar manufacturers, so as healthy lifestyles come increasingly to the fore, there are clear opportunities for others, whether they be food-to-go specialists or grocery retailers, to follow suit. 

Source: IGD research

As the UK food-to-go market continues to grow and to evolve, we’ll be updating our new food-to-go section on Retail Analysis with regular news stories, store visit reports and forecasts.

Be sure to keep up to date with all of the latest info by signing up our monthly food-to-go update newsletter and attending our new and exclusive FTG event in November! Find out more about the event here.

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