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Five ways to take inspiration from London

Updated: Jan 2

London blends cuisines, cultures and lifestyles like few other cities on earth, which feeds into a host of innovative and differentiated concepts and formats, making it a hugely popular destination for safaris. Here we take a look at some of the key learnings that our clients take from their safaris in the city.


1. The food-to-go specialists


London is in our view the best city globally in which to see food-to-go specialists. The plethora of small scale but highly professional and polished chains gives a level of inspiration around cuisines, lifestyle oriented concepts and operational focus that is hard to rival. Crussh and Pure alongside of course Pret have long stood out among the key innovators in this space. However, the list of operators to take inspiration from extends much further than this, with Simple Health Kitchen, Farmer J’s and Farmstand for example gaining a growing reputation.


What you can take from visiting: in one word, inspiration. Typically our safaris combine a dose of cuisine inspiration, with impactful and atmospheric in-store environments and a varied selection of innovative products, whether targeted around different dietary choices, or individual product specialism. We set this in the broader market context for you, to help you evaluate the potential success of new products and formats in your market more objectively. We’ll also aim to set up conversations with some of the team in-store, to give you a better on the ground perspective of how they make their concepts deliver.


2. The foodhalls


Up until recently, London was not a standout destination for foodhalls, and in fact lagged many other cities in Europe. But over the past 2 years, and the past six months in particular, we’ve witnessed an explosion of investment in this space, as more destinations have emerged across the city. Market Halls, in Fulham, Victoria and now Oxford Street have led the way, but increasingly others, such as Mercato Metropolitano’s latest venture in Mayfair, and Seven Dials in Covent Garden, are also capturing the imagination and headlines.


What you can take from visiting: An understanding of a different type of food-to-go inspiration. Operators in these spaces are generally small scale, and extremely nimble in targeting the latest trends. The way these concepts sit alongside each other is interesting for anyone involved in developing food spaces. There’s a lot of inspiration to take from a wider collection of food stalls serving great food in a fantastic environment, particularly for those involved in shaping future supermarket formats, and for those suppliers considering what role their products could play in future formats.



3. Food retail renewal


Food retailing in the UK in general is a difficult market right now. Investment across the country, for many retailers, has been limited, and aside from Sainsbury’s Selly Oak, few large formats had made any kind of an impact on the global supermarket format innovation radar for a while. That was until October of this year, when M&S opened its latest food format, first outside of London in Kent, and then in London’s Clapham Junction. That was closely followed by Morrisons Canning Town, a store that reshapes perceptions around what Morrisons can achieve in food-to-go, with a new internal look and feel in an urban supermarket format. Both stores are already high up on the priority lists of our groups visiting the UK, and appear set to remain so in 2020.


What you can take from visiting: the Morrisons and Marks and Spencer stores offer cutting edge insights into their latest thinking, while London also offers insights into how smaller formats are evolving. The Co-op is a great example of this, indicative of how food retail formats are becoming more mission focused, a trend we see across a growing number of markets.




4. New sustainable thinking


It’s not hard to see that a different approach is required to how we do business going forward compared with how it’s been done in the past. The need to change is not new, but the amount of change and the rate of change has undoubtedly accelerated significantly. And it's far from easy knowing where to prioritise efforts. As in many other areas, particularly among food-to-go specialists, and broader operators like Planet Organic, there are some cutting edge developments to learn from.


What you can take from visiting: Doing business responsibly is a growing focus, and London boasts some fantastic examples of businesses that have this as a core part of their DNA. Many of our groups have taken inspiration from how operators in London have set out to achieve this, as well as a practical understanding of how to take their own businesses forward in this space.


5. Glimpses into the future of your part of the food market.


Whether it’s the foodservice/ retail fusion, the role of technology in food-to-go and food retail, or how retailers and restaurants alike are targeting the increasingly attractive food-to-go space, London offers a lot to learn from and be inspired by. Why not get in touch to see how we can shape the right safari solution for your business and accelerate your innovation focus.


If you are just looking for an individual rather than group booking, our next London safari takes place on 28 January. Find out more and book your place here.


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