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Five top trends for forecourt evolution

Forecourts have been a significant area of focus recently, not least due to the continuing food-to-go growth opportunity they provide in what is a difficult market. But we've seen some important new developments coming through - only this week for example EG Group confirmed it will open 150 Cinnabon bakeries on sites across the UK. Here we look at some of the wider trends, and forecast what might be next.




Bigger and better destinations


We know already that the nature of the forecourt will change – it’s just a matter of the speed of change, as vehicle fleets convert to become increasingly electric based, bringing with it significant impacts for design and of course in how forecourts need to draw customers in. In future it will be less about the pumps and the associated payment scheme / loyalty schemes, and more about the food offer and delivering attractive, warm environments that customers want to spend time in. 2020 examples that showcase this include the J14 development in Ireland, while in the UK we're also seeing motorway services - such as Skelton Lake in Leeds - pushing the boundaries in terms of what they offer and how they deliver it to customers.


Continuing to develop the retail offer through partnerships


Across Europe we’ve seen several key recent developments. BP and Auchan have just launched a new collaboration in Poland, while the arrival of Asda on the Move on a handful of EG Group sites in the UK has sparked huge interest, not least due to the acquisition of Asda by the EG Group founders that was announced around a similar time. One outcome of this appears almost inevitably to be a wider rollout of Asda on the Move, but we'd also expect more retail businesses across Europe to look at forecourt development opportunities.


Adding new options for food-to-go – especially pizza….


On a range of forecourts recently we’ve seen new concepts being added. Pizza in particular has been in vogue recently, with Sbarro and NKD International making UK forecourt debuts with EG Group. Separately Chicago Town’s grab & go solution is being added onto Welcome Break forecourts.


Meanwhile in Norway, this summer Circle K launched a new collaboration with the country’s leading pizza chain Peppes Pizza, adding the concept into 230 forecourts. And in our latest webinar with RATIONAL, we highlighted how operators in Luxembourg are increasingly focused on their food-for-now propositions. EG Group's latest agreement, with Cinnabon, will provide a further spur for development - another move that will raise expectations from consumers over what to expect from a forecourt environment.


Developing drive thru


We are seeing increasing interest in drive thru development – whether that be from the likes of EG Group, or from QSRs. For example Taco Bell and Tim Hortons are opening their first UK drive thru sites, coincidentally both in Milton Keynes. And on the A1 in Banbridge in Northern Ireland, Musgrave’s Centra has also opened its first drive thru facility. Up until now it's mainly been the likes of McDonald's, Costa and more recently Starbucks (via EG) that have been active in that space. That feels set to change.


Harnessing delivery


Definitely not a first step for a forecourt, but one that becomes increasingly possible once the food offer is in place. Circle K has developed online ordering for collection and delivery via its app in both Ireland and Norway. At the same time, several players in North America are already developing at pace in this space. Some, such as Alltown Fresh, are taking it further, developing meal kits aligned with and in support of its growing its broader click & collect capability.


So what’s next?


Here are four key areas of development that we see:


1. Further editing of the grocery ranges around customer needs – retail will remain important, but these with more expansive ranges, which aren’t focused on certain key for now and for later missions, may look to repurpose space to accelerate wider appeal.


2. Developing the food-to-go proposition – and pushing that further into take away and delivery. What needs to underpin this however is a strong customer understanding by site. A one size fits all approach might look attractive from an investment perspective, but in reality a broader modular approach that can be flexed by location is probably the right one.


3. New and improved seating areas – and where space permits zoned seating for different target customers and their respective needs.


4. More brands being introduced into forecourt locations. From a supplier perspective, it’s a potentially significant growth opportunity for those in the food-to-go space. Meanwhile for food-to-go specialists, seeing footfall levels remain low in core city centre locations, it’s natural to look to move where customers are.


Want to find out more about our forecourt insights, and how you can get access to our forthcoming report on innovation in food-to-go on the forecourt? Get in touch with gavin@foodfuturesinsights.com.


Sign up to our next RATIONAL webinar here. We'll be joined by Martin Gaber from JosDeVries.