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Food-to-go in London: Key themes from our safari

Updated: Feb 6

We share some of the themes from our most recent food-to-go and retail fusion safari.


London’s food-to-go specialists offer lots to learn from

With a culture designed around innovating fast, customer focus and stretching boundaries, we always take huge amounts from our visits to London food-to-go specialists, as do our groups. This is often backed up with progressive approaches to both sustainability and technology. On this study tour those that captured the imagination most were the ever excellent Pure, Tossed, not least through the technology employed in-store, and veggie Pret in Fenchurch Street.


Mamagoing from strength to strength

Conveniently located almost opposite veggie Pret, mamago continues to impress. Wagamama's first food-to-go store improves on every visit, with the excellent standards during the opening weeks are being maintained. The menu is being developed further as mamago becomes more operationally confident - ramen are the latest addition to the menu.


Sharper convenience formats are better targeting the food-on-the move consumer

In this space it was one store that stood out, the latest format Co-op on the go store on Moorgate. The already well-developed thinking around food-to-go targeting at the Co-op has been evolved further in this store, helped by in-store collaborations with Yo Sushi!, iSqueeze, DOTs donuts, Seattle's Best Coffee and F'real shakes to elevate the offer and provide multiple reasons to visit across the key food-to-go dayparts. All of which comes on top of the Co-op's own strong recent range development programme, including the impressive new GRO plant-based range.


Format fusion to the fore

This is a theme of many of our safaris, but the focus on format fusion across the UK’s leading retailers was until recently significantly below that seen in our retail safaris in Dublin and Amsterdam, aside from the notable exception of Waitrose Granary Square. However, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer have both progressed significantly with their latest London formats. Both excel for different reasons, though both have a strong focus on making the most of fresh and food-to-go. Our group took learnings from how the Morrisons store is setting itself up for meal delivery, and also from seeing how a beer and wine offer has been integrated into its café, signalling that this new urban supermarket format is aiming to meet multiple food related missions for its local catchment.


nino Nando’s

While most of our time on safari is structured around pre-arranged visits, it’s always good to allow a little flex to spot innovation. And impromptu visits to new formats can often yield a lot. A quick look into this different type of Nando’s format showed how the business is considering delivery more strongly in its locational strategy. This site in Clapham had a much smaller seating area than most, designed much more akin to a café style rather than the traditional Nando’s look, with half the store dedicated to food preparation for delivery and on-site consumption.


Where Planet Organic leads, others follow

Our final destination was the consistently excellent Planet Organic on Tottenham Court Road. Innovation and testing new ranges is part of the DNA at this business, and this latest visit didn’t disappoint in terms of the healthier oriented innovation under way. Our group was also impressed by the focus on reducing packaging waste: the range of reusable alternatives was strong. For each group we take to this store, the experience of visiting stretches thinking into new areas and opportunities.


With health, wellness and responsible sourcing all high up the wider agenda.


Across the London food-to-go landscape there are many fantastic examples of initiatives across this space - the likes of Pure, Whole Foods Market and Planet Organic stood out on this visit, but others, including Farmer J’s, Simple Health Kitchen and Sourced Market, have provided similar inspiration and learnings on other visits, whether it be around sourcing strategies, the provision of healthier menu choices or the broader focus on encouraging healthier lifestyles.


London still leads most other markets in this space when it comes to the innovators. Which is why we love leading safaris in London - impressive formats, great innovations and our global food-to-go insights combine to help you get the most from your time and take practical learnings back to your business on how you need to position yourself to win.


Join us next time to experience trends in action for yourself

We regularly run retail safaris and food-to-go safaris across Europe’s most inspirational cities for food-to-go and retail. Our next London safari takes place on May 12, you can sign up here.

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