Wouter Staal, CEO and founder of the innovative and differentiated food-to-go business Yoghurt Barn, was our special guest at the latest RATIONAL/ Food Futures Insights webinar this week.
Here’s what we discussed:
It’s clear that the food-to-go market has changed, most likely permanently, with changes still under way.
We’re seeing shifts in footfall levels compared with previous norms, heavily impacted by most consumers still working from home at this stage. Right now across markets like the Netherlands and the UK, there’s a split between those consumers who are happy to go out, and who are perhaps less concerned about the threat of covid, and those who remain cautious and who for now, are staying at home.
Trade across foodservice in the Netherlands is recovering, albeit slowly and at different paces across different types of location.
There are more positive signs coming through by the day – Wouter spoke of a good recovery under way in sales at many Yoghurt Barn locations. There’s much reduced footfall at Yoghurt Barn’s railway station locations, and its site at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport remains closed for now, but city centre locations are doing better. Across the Netherlands foodservice sector, the recovery has been strongest in smaller towns – consumers are currently much happier visiting and eating out locally rather than in major city centres.
Healthy and organic have long been core elements of the Yoghurt Barn proposition.
Yoghurt Barn was created by Wouter and his wife Esther following a moment of inspiration on holiday in Southern Spain. The recognition that the Netherlands, where yoghurt consumption is very high, had no real foodservice specialist in this space, led them to create Yoghurt Barn. And from the business’s origins healthier and organic options have formed an important part of the brand DNA. This, combined with a focus on creating differentiated, welcoming store environments, has enabled the business to generate strong appeal across a broad customer base, but one with a clear accent towards younger, female consumers.
It’s not just about the yoghurt.
Yoghurt clearly lies at the heart of the proposition, and, whether it’s frozen or chilled, has an influence across much of the food offer. However, Yoghurt Barn has also worked hard to drive points of uniqueness in its coffee , using its own unique roast and placing significant focus on its strong barista coffee offer.
Focus and customer understanding have been key to success to date.
Understanding the core customer, and ensuring the brand is aligned with their priorities, have been really important factors driving Yoghurt Barn’s success. A recent move into merchandise is working well - and offering free yoghurt with reusable yoghurt bowls has significantly boosted take up. What’s also interesting is how Yoghurt Barn has cultivated visits at less busy times of day by creating new missions and reasons to visit - for example creating a high tea concept.
There are two core formats, one specifically targeting on the move missions.
As well as the standard barn concept, the business has expanded into smaller and transient locations with a modified fast service barn concept. Wouter remains very positive about the expansion opportunity for both formats, though primarily now sees this as being beyond the Netherlands.
The next step is international.
The business is on the cusp of an important shift. To date, Yoghurt Barn has opened sites under its own steam rather than through franchise, and it’s stayed very much inside the borders of the Netherlands. However, Wouter feels it’s now time to consider international expansion, something he’s keen to do in conjunction with a master franchiser across selected markets. Northern Europe in particular is a focus. We will watch the next stage of expansion with interest.
Many thanks to Wouter for sharing his insights. And many thanks to RATIONAL for supporting this programme of food-to-go insight seminars. You can find out more about RATIONAL’s food-to-go solutions by contacting Benjamin Nothaft (firstname.lastname@example.org), and see more insights, recordings and details of upcoming webinars at the RATIONAL food-to-go hub here.