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The new food-to-go landscape in Dublin

Updated: Apr 27

Dublin - and Ireland overall - has long been a reference point when it comes to food-to-go in retail. Off the back of significant further recent development, we're back in Dublin to run another food-to-go in retail safari on May 18th (you can reserve your place here). Ahead of the session, we share some of the latest trends and developments.


Premium format development in food-to-go has strengthened


Donnybrook Fair’s new flagship at Dundrum Shopping Centre is perhaps the highest profile recent development here. And not without reason - this store, opened in late 2021, delivers a compelling food-led experience across a range of missions.

There’s much to take from the store. The chef’s corner, focused on a rotating dish of the day, is one highlight, the barista counter is another. This is supported by sushi and an extensive array of other food-for-now options, including freshly made pizza, with the pizza oven an integral store feature. Impressive food-to-go comes with some great food-to-stay in the restaurant upstairs, which offers both a fuller range of food options and a space for events. Meanwhile the retail offer also impresses on many counts, a craft butcher is complemented by a green butcher, while an outstanding wine section is a must see part of the store.


But it's not just about what the store does, it's also, like any premium experience, about how it does it. The design of the store impresses, and provides a great platform for the food offer to shine, alongside an intrinsic focus on looking after the customer in-store.


From a premium format perspective, this is far from the extent of Dublin's appeal. In fact, there are several smaller premium operators across the city, while from a broader lifestyle perspective Avoca remains a key benchmark and Dollard & Co delivers a quality oriented, food hall style proposition.


City centre food-to-go in retail is also evolving


Dublin has long boasted many fantastic city centre, food-to-go led, convenience stores. And this continues, with openings such as Thomas Ennis’s latest SPAR on Lower Baggot Street complementing a rich existing vein of food-to-go in convenience. At the same time, we’ve also seen the arrival of a new player into Dublin city centre convenience – in the form of Circle K, which acquired 10 stores from Dublin retailer Seamus Griffin, and has since converted them to the core Circle K format, which Irish consumers are familiar with from its roadside locations. The conversion of these stores has been rapid – it’s been more about adding the Circle K look and feel rather than adding new elements to the offer – but it provides a strong springboard for Circle K to do more in this space.


And it's not just about the evolution of stores, it's also about the evolution of ranges in food-to-go, not least with a greater focus on grab & go products, driven in combination with an impressive set of domestic Irish food-to-go suppliers, who look well beyond their own borders for inspiration.


The start of a new era for neighbourhood convenience retailing?


Stores like Centra Millers Glen, a little outside Dublin itself in Swords, are raising the game in neighbourhood convenience. Food-to-go is again integral to the proposition, supported by Frank & Honest barista coffee, Moo'd ice cream and an enticing store front seating area. In addition there's some strong development of food-for-later, not least through freshly prepared meals for tonight, and a well-considered broader food (& non-food gifting) retail range. We see considerable scope for convenience stores to position themselves as broader community hubs. This is a great example of a retailer doing just that.



Supermarkets have long targeted the food-to-go opportunity but propositions are strengthening


SuperValu and Dunnes Stores in particular have both been keen to accelerate their focus in this space. At Dunnes Stores in the Ilac Centre, a range of counters – primarily in house but supported by Sushi Gourmet – helps create a food for now hub, combined with a seating area in-store to encourage dwell.


Meanwhile SuperValu’s latest formats – both city centre and suburban – have further developed existing strengths in this space. The use of in-house sub brands, notably Frank & Honest and Caramico pizza, sits alongside a self-serve hot food and salad offer, and a seating area in-store – in both the smaller urban Kilmainham format and the full scale supermarket in Knocklyon. What's also interesting is the use of other sub brands in the broader range, with Happy Pear umbrella branding used for both Happy Pear products itself and wider plant-based options, and a range of more premium, Donnybrook Fair branded products, also carried in its own dedicated section.


And at the same time, no article on retail/ food-to-go fusion in Dublin would be complete without mention of Fresh the Good Food Market. At the heart of Fresh's appeal is the strength of its food-for-now counters, but these are ably supported by a broader range, which now includes its own range of ready meals, alongside impressive butchers, produce and alcohol sections.



Much more scope for further development...


And while there's been significant recent development, there's much more under way, as a variety of players look to evolve their propositions and prominent new entrants, such as Pret, arrive. Expect further innovation ahead.


Want to join our safari on May 18th?


Sign up here or email gavin@foodfuturesinsights.com for more information.