Within the overall food-to-go market IGD analysis estimates that forecourts are participating in a sub-sector with convenience and other retailers that is worth £2.5bn a year, with many having introduced specialist food-to-go counters in their stores and focusing on the different times of day shoppers purchase food-to-go.
IGD's shopper research has identified five key 'missions', or occasions, for food-to-go shoppers; lunch, breakfast, snacking, leisure and drinks:
lunch is the most popular reason for buying food on-the-go 70% of shoppers bought something for this occasion in the past month;
28% bought something on-the-go for breakfast in the past month;
45% bought a snack on-the-go in the past month;
almost a third (32%) of leisure food-to-go shoppers bought a drink, snack or sandwich to eat in or relax;
supermarkets (30%) followed by convenience stores (23%) are the most popular places to purchase a drink on-the-go.
IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch commented: "There are some really clear development opportunities for food-to-go in the UK, driven by the growth of little and often shopping, the rise in popularity of street food and coffee culture, and shoppers' increasingly flexible lifestyles."
All the leading forecourt companies have embraced the food-to-go opportunity with Euro Garages in particular building relationships with companies such as Starbucks, Subway, Burger King and Greggs. Speaking at the NACS Insight Convenience Summit Europe, in June, Euro Garages co-CEO Mohsin Issa, said that in terms of foodservice, Euro Garages was not a brand but an ambassador for leading global brands and it aimed to outperform those brands. "Customers should not recognise Euro Garages is running those brands," he said. "Success is when a customer has an experience that is equally as good, if not better than the brand owners."
Michael O'Loughlin, managing director of Applegreen UK, was even more emphatic about the importance of food-to-go to the forecourt sector. He told the ACS/PRA Forecourt Forum in July: "Our focus needs to change to feeding the customer not their car." Ireland-based Applegreen, which has more than 200 sites, including 66 in the UK, has ties with food and beverage brands such as Greggs, Costa, Burger King, Lavazza and Chopstix Noodle Bar, and has also developed its own Bakewell Café, to strengthen the focus on feeding customers.
O'Loughlin said: "The Bakewell Café brings about a strategic move towards a focus on food, with an emphasis on high-quality, great tasting and beautifully presented fare. We have built a network of top producers to supply our customers with fresh natural food, including quality meat, hot savouries, breads, pastries, cakes, fresh fruit and salads. We source our food locally where possible.
"We are always striving to be ahead of the trends and to improve our selection of food, so we are working with our Applegreen chef to develop new and exciting recipes and bring specialist expertise to the development process."
Motor Fuel Group indicated its increasing focus on feeding customers when in July it appointed its first food services development manager, Jackie Ledwich. She joined MFG from the Kout Food Group where she was responsible for rolling out the Little Chef, Subway and Burger King brands across 30 of its roadside restaurants.
Richard Baker, MFG's retail director, said: "This is a key appointment for the organisation in expanding the choice and quality of our food-to-go offering to customers.
"In her role Jackie will be responsible for both identifying the best brands and ensuring they are implemented in our stations to the highest standards."
Rontec has recently received recognition from Subway for developing its brand, since they began working together three years ago. It won the prize for the best franchisee in the world for 26-49 stores at the sandwich store business's 2016 Summer Franchisee Leadership Conference Awards (see page 8).
But food-to-go is not just the domain of the largest players, with almost any forecourt store having room for at least a coffee offering, with Costa in particular having a massive presence in the sector.
Jet is encouraging its dealers to get more involved in this growing market with the launch of 'Snack on the Go'.
Jet and eXpresso Plus initially joined forces last year to introduce a coffee-to-go initiative for Jet dealers, but earlier this year Jet's Retail Services Team identified an opportunity to enhance the initiative by introducing a food-to-go offering to sit alongside the coffee.
Working with eXpresso Plus, the Snack on the Go concept was developed and is now available to all Jet sites. The Snack on the Go display unit can be customised to fit the store's available space (minimum 1 sq m). As well as a Lavazza coffee machine, dealers can choose to add display areas for hot food, sweet treats and chilled items.
Stuart Cufflin, transport and retail contracts manager at Jet, commented: "We're always looking to help Jet dealers drive footfall onto their forecourts and we believe Snack on the Go will do just that. With the continued trend toward forecourts becoming convenience destinations, coffee and food-to-go present strong commercial opportunities that dealers can and should be taking advantage of."
Lauren Tyler, marketing manager, at eXpresso Plus, added: "The demand for food-to-go in the convenience sector has seen a 33% year-on-year growth. Breakfast-to-go has seen the highest increase with 64% of consumers buying a hot drink with their purchase.
"Forecourts are ideally placed to capitalise on this trend and is why we're delighted to have teamed up with Jet for the launch of Snack on the Go. Offering consumers well-known and high quality brands such as Lavazza and Country Choice strengthens this concept even further and we're confident that those Jet dealers who choose to introduce Snack on the Go will see their shop sales increase."
TRUCKERS SEEKING HEALTHIER FOOD
Roadside service stations are failing to meet demand from lorry drivers for healthy foods, according to research by the RAC.
Finding a healthy snack while out on the UK's road network every day is seen as one of the biggest frustrations facing commercial drivers, with 41% of firms saying lorry drivers in particular have reported this.
The research among 500 UK businesses, asking what drivers list as their top roadside gripes, suggests lorry drivers are more health conscious than company car drivers. One in five (21%) company car drivers list a lack of healthy food alternatives at service stations among their biggest bugbears, in contrast to lorry drivers at 41%.
For lorry drivers this came above other issues on the road, including using mobile phones (40%), poor standard of overnight facilities (39%) and middle lane 'hoggers' (34%). The findings also suggest the end of the traditional image of the trucker chomping into a certain chocolate bar as they go.
RAC Truck Rescue spokesman Matt Dallaway said this was a positive sign for the HGV community as research by supermarket Morrison's in recent years found that nearly one in three (28%) truckers were obese or morbidly obese against a national average of a fifth (22%).
Dallaway said: "Of course we recognise that service station facilities are always improving and more food outlets are opening up for drivers, but there is clearly still more that can be done."