Food-to-go: six large formats we love

Date : 18 October 2018

Big store reinvention is a major focus right now for many retailers globally. And many have identified food-to-go, and wider foodservice, as a key opportunity through which to boost dwell time, increase spend, drive customer experience and deepen the relationship with those visiting the store.

But delivering great food-to-go and foodservice solutions is not easy. Globally we’ve helped a number of retailers and their suppliers identify routes through which to grow capability and impact in food-to-go and wider foodservice.  And that’s why we run our annual Food-to-Go Conference, designed to showcase best practice, inspire, and signpost the routes through to upgrading capability in what is for many a field with different KPIs and ways of working. Here we share some of the best stores globally we’ve seen in this space.

1. Whole Foods Market, Bryant Park, New York, US

For many Whole Foods Market is one of the first names that comes to mind when considering a retailer that excels in food-to-go. A focus on innovation and in-store theatre helps create the right environment, but this is supported by extensive in-store preparation to showcase the freshness of the offer.  Whole Foods Market stores have long been food-to-go destinations in their own right, with plentiful self-serve displays, rotating time of day offers and a strong focus on customer service and counters. But this latest New York store takes the concept further into foodservice territory, with an elevated dining experience complementing the contemporary look and feel. There’s a strong market hall feel to parts of the store as well. From the cuisine on offer to the store environment and payment mechanics, this fits very much as a localised proposition, designed with Manhattan in mind.


Source: IGD Research

2. Farm Boy, Etobicoke, Toronto, Canada

Described as a hybrid of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market, Ottawa-based Farm Boy has been one of the most expansive retailers in Canada over recent years. It has doubled its store count to 26 units over the last five years, carving out a niche positioning in the market. Last month, Canada’s second largest grocery retailer, Sobeys, announced that it had agreed terms to acquire Farm Boy, which we’d expect to give its recent expansion-focused mindset more impetus. 

The store design brings to life the retailer’s strapline, “It’s all about the food!”  Around 70-80% of the space at the store is dedicated to fresh and prepared foods, with the Farm Boy Kitchen, accounting for around half the space in-store, a great example of this.  This includes service counters for stir-fry, pizza, sushi and custom-made sandwiches and panini. Digital menu boards are used within this part of the store, supporting time-of-day merchandising.


Source: IGD Research

3. New Seasons Market, Ballard, Seattle, US

A store we visited for the first time this week, this latest concept New Seasons Market takes the offer to new heights. It’s a store that feels like it’s been built in partnership with local suppliers from this Portland based retailer. And 10% of group profits are fed back into local good causes. Seattle is a hotbed for great formats, both across retail and wider foodservice, with PCC and Metropolitan Market also doing a great job of fusing both angles. However the strength of the foodservice proposition in this store, and the range of solutions on offer, made this store stand out to us. The commitment to local sourcing is highlighted across the store, and an outstanding food-to-go offer is supported by a bar specialising in local beers. There’s also a great seating area installed at the heart of the store, that stretches outside when weather permits.   


Source: IGD Research

4. Supervalu, Merchants Quay, Cork, Ireland

It’s not only North American stores that we can take inspiration from. Musgrave is a business we’ve long held in high esteem for the strength of its food-to-go proposition, and while it’s typically Centra convenience stores that capture the headlines, we’ve also been impressed by how this has been integrated into its SuperValu supermarket proposition. Stores in Glanmire and on Merchants Quay in Cork provide a great insight into the depth and breadth of its offer, driven in both instances by a combination of Musgrave centralised capability and local retailer excellence. In Merchants Quay, a combination of different food-to-go counters efficiently meet the needs of hungry lunchtime workers. A wide range of hot food options, personalised salads, paninis, pizzas and its own in-house barista brand Frank & Honest supporting the destination stratus of the wider proposition. The core elements are service led, reflecting local preferences, but there are also plentiful grab and go solutions for those with less time.


Source: IGD Research

5.Jumbo Foodmarkt, Utrecht, Netherlands

In Europe, this is perhaps the best example of a leading retailer building a store where foodservice and retail collide. Specifically this is through the integration of thinking from the La Place foodservice business, recently acquired by  Jumbo, into the already impressive Jumbo Foodmarkt proposition.  This elevates the offer and brings new, more specialist ranges, such as poké and bao buns, into the core offer.  It also adds new operational capability into this space. Segmented in its own part of the store, it exudes a food hall feel. An attractive seating area benefits from great natural light at the front of the building and, with a demonstration kitchen at the heart of it, is well-positioned for a wide array of food related events.


Source: IGD Research

6. Waitrose, Granary Square, London, UK 

A long standing favourite on our UK safaris, this is a store that stands out for many through the breadth of food related missions it caters for. As well as a core food-to-go counter, a juice bar, wine & tapas bar and integrated cookery school all add to the overall experience, encouraging dwell time and use of the store for a variety of different missions. In addition we’ve seen a lot of focus on developing grab and go ranges to meet a variety of needs and target different customer groups, including providing vegan/ vegetarian and gluten free options. Waitrose’s extensive ranging across food-for-later complements this as a large format store that is well attuned to meeting multiple smaller missions. Given prevailing consumer preferences across many markets, meeting smaller missions effectively will become increasingly important to the success of many larger format stores.   


Source: IGD Research

Want to find out more about the latest trends and developments in food-to-go, the latest best concepts to see and how retailer strategies are evolving to incorporate these? Join us on November 8 in London. 

We'll be sharing our latest insights from innovative food-to-go concepts across Europe, from both retailers and food-to-go specialists, on November 8 in London. We'll be joined by speakers from Sainsbury's, Compass, Greencore, Primal Pantry, Pure, Fresh the Good Food Market, Deli De Luca and Coop Schweiz, who will share their perspectives on what makes a great format and talk about some of the principles behind their success. Click here to find out more.

Want to see and experence some of London's best stores? To join our London food-to-go safari on November 9, click here.