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Dublin: unlocking food-to-go innovation in retail

Updated: Jan 2

Dublin seldom disappoints when it comes to food retail and food-to-go safaris, and is very much one of our top destinations for 2020. In particular, it's traditionally been the quality of counter-served food-to-go that has made it stand out, but increasingly there's much to see beyond that. Here are some of our favourite places for inspiration. 1. SPAR Merrion Row. SPAR Ireland has been in the throes of a significant refurbishment programme across the estate, and there are now several impressive formats in both suburban and city centre locations in Dublin. It’s Thomas Ennis’s Merrion Row store, just five minutes from St Stephen’s Green, however, which for us is the stand out store. It brings together a trinity of a great format, a focus on excellent quality food, and an impressive focus on making customers feel welcome whatever their mission.

2. Fresh the Good Food Market. A must visit store on any Dublin itinerary, the key challenge is often which store to visit. Capital Dock is the latest, and to our minds the most impressive in how it has a different, more premium, look and feel, that could be the gateway to targeting newer and different customer missions going forward (not least in summer with an extensive outdoor seating area looking out across the water). However, it’s by no means the only great Fresh store in the city. A dominant focus on fresh helps create licence to play strongly in fresh food-for-now and food-for-later. Very few will visit a Fresh store and not learn from and be inspired by the experience.

3. Centra Parnell St and Wellington Quay. These are now well established stores, so not the newest in the portfolio, but both give a great impression of how the Musgrave backed convenience proposition has enabled its store owners to create formats that straddle convenience and food-to-go missions highly effectively. Visit the two and you’ll see a great combination of barista and bean to cup machine coffee, burritos, salad and more traditional hot food fare, and strong grab and go offers.

4. Dunnes Stores. On our latest visit we called in at the refurbished store in Swords, to the North of Dublin, which offered a great insight into how the retailer is creating a platform for new growth in its food business, not least through acquiring and introducing specialist formats into its proposition. Sheridans chessemongers, James Whelan butchers and Cafe Sol coffee shop sit alongside the Baxter & Greene deli branding. All of these brands are owned by and operated by Dunnes Stores. This type of execution can now be found in a growing number of Dunnes Stores across Ireland, with the latest best version to be found in its central Dublin Henry Street store.

5. Sprouts and Co. Focused on salads, that simple description doesn’t do this operation anything like justice, with a proposition that delivers healthy, local and seasonal in abundance. It certainly has similarities with US salad specialists like Sweetgreen and Dig Inn, but for us in terms of principles it’s closest to Sweetgreen, given its exceptional focus on highlighting seasonality and its commitment to ensuring local sourcing and control over the supply chain and transparency through taking the step of owning and running its own farm.

6. KC Peaches. A relatively small player overall, with four cafés, its is still very much deserving of a visit on any Dublin safari, driven not least through its focus on natural, fresh and healthy ingredients. In the two locations we’ve visited on our safaris, we’ve also been impressed by the ambience, with a focus on casual, informal, healthy and fresh that feels very much in tune with evolving consumer attitudes.

Want to join us on our next Dublin safari? Click here to sign up to our session on March 5, or get in touch with gavin@foodfuturesinsights.com to find out more about how we can deliver an exclusive safari for your business.


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