Are you good to go with food-to-go?

vegan sausage rolls

Food-to-go is a multi-billion-pound industry and is arguably the biggest trend in convenience retailing at the moment. Fortunately, grabbing a slice of the action is easier than ever.


Food-to-go, it will surprise no one to hear, is now a multi-billion-pound business and it’s a category – or collection of categories, really – that no local retailer can afford to avoid, regardless of where there store happens to be or what size it is. Today’s consumers want to eat and drink on the go; stores that meet that need can generate new and profitable revenue streams.

There are more and more companies servicing this market with fully fledged all-in-one solutions like Aryzta, Lomond Wholesale and Fife Creamery, but if you’re not quite ready to go all in, there are still plenty of options out there to help get you onto the food-to-go ladder with a minimum of outlay.

There are plenty of options too which can help you set your store apart from the competition and give customers new reasons to come through your doors every day.

Naresh Gajri of One Stop Lamlash Crescent in Glasgow has embraced this concept by becoming the first store in the UK to bring on board the Stacked brand, which offers hot and cold subs made for customers on the spot.

“The feedback we’ve received since having Stacked has been really positive, enabling us to compete even further for the lunchtime trade,” says Naresh. “Sales are building in the few weeks we’ve had Stacked and, with lots of offices around us, as word gets out, we’ll have a real chance to increase our sales significantly.”

Naresh worked closely with his One Stop Business Development Manager Jim Carroll to identify what would work in his store. Carroll comments: “Naresh wanted more for his store, so we investigated a range of options and Stacked came out on top. He’s worked really hard to get awareness of the new range out, providing samples for a nearby industrial estate and offering quick turnaround platters for local organisations.

“In just a few weeks his basket spend has gone from £5 to £8 or £9 which is really impressive. For us this is a joint enterprise: retailers working with a retailer. Our franchisees have the entrepreneurial knowledge on the ground and from us they get a huge level of commitment and support that they wouldn’t get on their own.”

Interestingly, Naresh didn’t believe that food-to-go was necessarily ‘right’ for his store, a view held by many retailers. He didn’t sell many sandwiches and didn’t have full confidence in developing his hot and cold food-to-go offer. But all of that has now changed and he is seeing growth across the board.

He explains: “In the past we used to sell very few sandwiches but we’ve seen a 200-300% sales increase since we introduced Meal Deals.”

One company with a long tradition and a lot of experience in offering a full food-to-go solution to local retailers is Aryzta Food Solutions. “Offering customers a good selection of hot and cold food-to-go is a simple, cost-effective way for convenience retailers to attract new shoppers – and increase basket spend,” says Mary Byrne, Aryzta’s Trade Marketing Manager for Retail.

Aryzta says its range of solutions help retailers “compete head-on with high street foodservice outlets” while its partnership with Seattle’s Best Coffee means retailers also have access to a range of self-service machines that deliver great-tasting hot drinks and a great customer experience.

For retailers looking for an all-in-one food-to-go package, Aryzta offers a flexible set of options and ways into the category. “We have a variety of options for retailers, from purchasing ovens and equipment, right through to schemes whereby retailers who work with us and meet the appropriate level of sales can loan equipment from us through a partnership agreement,” says Byrne.

“This means that in some cases the only cost that the retailer may have to consider is purchasing the stock and investing some staff time to bake off and set up the display.”

As well as its core range, Aryzta’s offer also gives local retailers the opportunity to keep up with the latest trends with a minimum of fuss and effort. Last year it introduced a new range of vegan savouries, to tap into demand for meat-free and free-from alternatives.

The range includes Vegan Sausage Rolls, Vegan Spicy Chickpea & Kale Pithivier, Vegan Spicy Chickpea Roll and a Vegan Saag Aloo Lattice Slice.

For even more exotic tastes, the company also introduced two Spinach Pide products, perfect for eating on-the-go. A pide (pronounced pea-deh) is a Turkish pizza style flat bread, featuring different filling and flavour combinations. The two new products are a Spinach Pide with Gyros Chicken, and a Spinach Pide with Mozzarella, Basil & Tomato.

The company also offers pizza in a handheld format to be enjoyed on the move – a Handheld Margherita Pizza, and Handheld Ham & Cheese Pizza.

But it’s not all just about range when it comes to creating an effective, profitable hot food-to-go offer, as Byrne advises: “Shoppers buy with their eyes, so getting your display right is key to driving sales of food-to-go and in-store bakery products.

“Research shows that shoppers are converted by displays, so there’s an opportunity here to grow basket size with the right layout.”

Building basket spend by understanding shopping missions is a key focus for Unilever too, who are very active in the food-to-go market. Nick Widdowson, Unilever’s Merchandising and Creative Controller, says that getting it right can make the shopper’s experience easier and boost the retailer’s profits at the same time: “It’s very important to identify which customer missions your store should be focusing on. Hungry shoppers looking for ‘food for now’ are very single minded. They will only visit the areas of the store that fulfil their need – sandwich, drink, crisps and so on. A coffee machine or hot snacks should be sited nearby and it’s also a good idea to site single fresh fruit nearby too.”

For a more straightforward solution, a simple microwave can do the trick, particularly at lunchtime. Rustlers is the UK’s top-selling micro snack brand and lunchtime is the biggest occasion for Rustlers.

“Convenience stores which offer Rustlers generate a higher basket spend, with the average basket spend of a ‘microwavable burger’ shopper being more than the average chilled food-to-go shopper [HIM CTP 2018],” says Monisha Singh, Shopper Marketing Manager at Kepak Consumer Foods, which owns the Rustlers brand.

Kepak recommends that the Rustlers Quarter Pounder, the bestselling micro-snack in the UK [Nielsen, Jan 2019], should be the go-to product when building a reliable hot lunchtime solution.

“Some 28 Rustlers Quarter Pounders are sold every minute, making it the No.1 choice for micro-snacking shoppers,” says Singh.