If you’ve driven around Poland or the Czech Republic, it’s likely you know Orlen for its forecourts, or indeed its wider energy business. The energy side remains very significant, alongside which they’ve developed their roadside retail & food-to-go proposition, not least through the addition of cafés into over 2,100 of their 2,800 sites across Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and Lithuania. But its latest format innovation isn’t on the forecourt, it’s in the heart of Warsaw, in a district close to the city centre. Orlen has developed an impressive new convenience format, drawing on the best of what they do on the forecourt, translated for a more urban, residential customer base. This followed the acquisition of the Ruchu chain of kiosks and convenience stores late last year. And while travel restrictions meant that we’ve been unable to travel there ourselves, friend of Food Futures Insights and webinar co-host Benjamin Nothaft from RATIONAL has been able to. We caught up with him to find out what he thought of the concept.
A warm and welcoming concept
Generating a welcoming feel from the start, the external perspective has been well-thought through. The lighting is very important here, but there’s a clear focus on showing off the best parts of the offer from outside the store. Digital screens, the coffee corner and the food-to-go counter are key elements of the offer that help draw the customer in. The screens do a great job in showcasing the menu, and adding to the attraction of the store and the reasons to visit.
A great range of food-for-now on offer
Having visited several strong Orlen forecourt sites, I was expecting a good quality food-to-go offer. And the latest concept definitely delivered on that count. The range of food-for-now products on offer was broad, and for almost any mission, you can find something to meet your needs here. There are many hot food options. I was struck by the range of burgers – including meat-free and halloumi options – this was accompanied by pizzas, wraps, baguettes, pizzaioli, hot dogs and sushi. Vegetarian options were well-signposted across the store – something that you don’t always see in Poland.
Everything is heated once ordered, so there’s no hot hold unit in place. It’s a relatively short time to wait for the customer, and an understandable approach outside of busy times. But it does restrict volumes at peak times, and the downside of the rapid heating approach is the resultant rapid cooling. So it’s great if you are eating it right away, but less good for customers looking to take products back to their homes or offices. It also doesn’t really work for delivery. Maybe a different cooking system (I can recommend one!) and a hot hold unit could be interesting to test in future formats.
And a good selection of quality food-for-later
This was part of the food counter offer, on a grab and go basis. It was well-merchandised and easy to shop. The quality and range also impressed. This is an approach that could also be relevant for others - there's an unexploited opportunity for many convenience stores in strengthening their food-for-later proposition and making it more front of mind for their customers.
The breadth of offer covered meat and meat free options, and extended into premium desserts. It was a real surprise to me to see those here, but they impressed visually and you could see them fitting well with the proposition as a whole, and tempting many to buy.
Coffee is a focal point
Alongside the counter, a coffee corner, focused on a Franke unit, definitely catches the eye. It was nicely presented, and the ability to pay at the machine, rather than separately at the till, makes it a quicker, simpler and more convenient mission. A pastry display sat to the side of the coffee machine, neatly tucked in, but also understated, and possibly missed by many customers. Maybe there's an opportunity in future iterations to bring out the pastry offer more strongly. The muffin offer however was nicely brought to life through an in-store digital screen.
The store still covers the traditional convenience bases
While drinks and snacks may not be the primary focus on entering the store, there’s more than enough range to cover the key needs here.
Well-placed for further development
I liked the way the two brands were fused together. Orlen w Ruchu (Orlen at Ruchu) helps bring the old and the new together, keeping the traditional focus while leveraging the Orlen brand, and its food-to-go strengths, in a new environment. This should put the concept in a great position as it rolls out to the remaining 40 stores it plans to convert to the format, not just in Warsaw but also in several other major Polish cities, and including airport and subway locations. We look forward to visiting more of these new concepts soon.
To find out more about our webinar series, visit the hub here, where you can catch up on the series so far, drawing on different aspects of the wider food-to-go opportunity, with a focus on food-to-go in retail.
And if you want to take part in future sessions, as a guest speaker or attendee, or need help defining your food-to-go strategy and / or bringing it to life, get in touch with Gavin (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Benjamin (email@example.com).