Five small stores leading food-to-go evolution during COVID

Date : 21 February 2021

Nicola Knight

Senior Analyst - Food-To -Go

From our global view of grocery retail we can clearly see the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the development of food-to-go in small stores. Once a hero category, reduced mobility and stay at home guidance have had a dramatic impact on category sales. In the UK we estimate this loss to be worth c£0.8bn in 2020 vs 2019 (–29%).

However, after an uncertain few months in Q2 2020 when format and range development slowed, we started to see renewed interest in food-to-go innovation demonstrating retailers’ belief that the category will return to growth.

Here are our top five stores from around the world that are leading the way in food-to-go execution, providing inspirations for retailers, food-to-go operators and suppliers.

For more details, Retail Analysis subscribers can read our new report The evolution of food-to-go in small stores.

1. Best for serving home-based office workers

7-Eleven, Copenhagen, Denmark

Images: 7-Eleven,

For Copenhagen office workers working from home and missing their usual lunch, 7-Eleven has launched delivery direct to their door. Customers can order breakfast items, salads, freshly made sandwiches, drinks and ready meals from 7am to 10.30pm via special dual-branded vehicles in partnership with premium delivery service

2. Best for operational efficiency and profitability

Morrisons Market Kitchen, Manchester, England

Images: IGD research

UK retailer Morrisons first standalone Market Kitchen store sets new expectations for how to combine a high quality and innovative foodservice operation within a compact supermarket format. The set-up is very efficient operationally to maximise margin and service. Chefs work directly below the shop floor, using state of the art facilities in an agile way that encourages them to innovate. Ingredients are sourced from the existing supply chain. A food-for-later section offers the same chef made meals as the hot pan counter but designed to be reheated at home. Delivery via Deliveroo further enhances the productivity and reach of the store.

3. Best for adapting formats to post-COVID lifestyle changes

Alfa X, various locations, Indonesia

Images: Alfamart

Alfa X is a new convenience store format from leading Indonesian retailer Alfamart. The 400 sq. m. stores have a unique layout including seating area, co-working space, meeting rooms and a mini stage for entertainment. The cool cafe design aims to attract millennials, providing them with a cosy space to hang out and enjoy a selection of coffee, light meals and snacks. To boost profitability when using in-store services, shoppers have to pay a minimum of US$34 to book a room for 5 people which includes food and drinks.

4. Best for targeting health-conscious consumers

Healthi.ful, Bangkok, Thailand

Image: Central Food Retail

Healthi.ful is a small format retail concept focused on health and wellness from Central Food Retail in Thailand. The most recent store includes the Healthi.ful Makai Café, a dine-in zone offering a wide range of healthy menus, including organic coffee and tea, healthy bowls and smoothie. Meals can be customised to meet requests for low sodium, low sugar and low carb diets. Delivery is also available via Line and Grab services.

5. Best growth through partnership opportunity

SPAR, Arnhem, Netherlands

Image: SPAR

In the Netherlands, SPAR has set its sights on significantly expanding its foodservice market share by buying a majority stake in food-to-go operator The Tosti Club (currently 11 sites). The retailer experimented with two sites in its stores before forming a permanent relationship in October 2020. For now, it will only open new sites in SPAR stores and aims to expand evening meal missions.

Looking for more food-to-go inspiration?

This report covers the latest developments in food-to-go in small stores around the world, taking into account the impact of COVID-19 on innovation. It includes examples from retailers such as 7-Eleven, Sourced Market, Tambo +, Morrisons, FamilyMart, Esso, AlfaMart, Coles, Woolworths, SPAR and Central Retail Group.

This report covers the latest developments in food-to-go in large stores around the world, taking into account the impact of COVID-19 on innovation. It includes examples from retailers such as Kroger, Prisma, Asda, ICA, Walmart, Heinen, Ahold Delhaize, Grupo Éxito Wow, Coop Sverige, Central Food Hall, Colruyt and Mercadona.

Key influences shaping the direction of the food-to-go market around the world, this year and beyond. Illustrated with examples of retailers and operators already leading the way in adapting to changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.