Forecourt stores often take the lead in new food-to-go concepts and BP Sholing in Southampton is doing just that.  Tracy West reports


Pizza Rebellion currently offers seven varieties: Pulverized Pepperoni; Margherita Mutiny; Notorious Pig; BBQ Beef Rib & Pickle; Mad Doner; The XXX; and a seasonal flavour. Rrp for each is £9.95

If you go down to Lawrence Garages’ BP Sholing site in Southampton, you’re sure of a big surprise. And that surprise is quality pizza, 24/7, from a robotic vending machine courtesy of Pizza Rebellion.

Pizza Rebellion was started in the lockdown from the Richmond Arms in West Ashling, Chichester. Founder William Jack takes up the story: “We were an innovative high-end restaurant, with an adjoining bar based solely around a huge wood-fired osven and pizzas. We were multi-award winning and highlighted in all the major restaurant guides and national press. During lockdown we decided to use all our experience to provide the convenience of fresh handcrafted pizzas with the convenience of clever robotics to cook banging pizzas to order 24/7.” He says the robotic pizza vending machine dispatches handmade craft pizzas in under four minutes using cutting-edge technology. And adds that his pizzas are “tastier, healthier, more original, cheaper, cooler and more convenient than any other pizza chain’s”.

The pizzas are made in the company’s production kitchen then held boxed in an intelligent robotic refrigerated closed-loop system. Currently seven varieties are available, each costing £9.95. Customers can order a pizza directly on the machine or remotely on the Pizza Rebellion app. Once ordered, the pizza is transported to the patented jet pulsed oven, cooked, boxed and dispatched.

“Ours are the only standalone machines in the UK and they take up less space than a car parking space. All we need is a single-phase electricity connection, all other services are self-sufficient within the machines.

“Our machines have the highest standard of hygiene HACCAP stock management with real-time information recording. We monitor stock levels remotely and can react to peaks and troughs in the market to reduce spoilage/wastage to practically zero. The machine also only uses an incredibly low 4kw of electricity per 24 hours and our boxes and wooden knives are recyclable so our environmental impact is minimal,” says Jack.

Worries about mischievous people tampering with the machines are allayed by the use of CCTV and alarms and Jack says all the machinery and the oven have the highest levels of safety with compliance audits approved by the EEC.

At BP Sholing, Pizza Rebellion pays them a slice of their sales. Director Ben Lawrence says they are delighted to have partnered with Pizza Rebellion to offer customers something very different to their food-to-go offer, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Providing customers with delicious craft pizzas using the freshest of ingredients and all in under five minutes is great. The response from customers has been hugely positive – they love the theatre but also the great taste and quality. So far we’re selling 22 pizzas a day and counting.”

Quality attraction

Jack says the press and social media attention that the pizza machines create draws people in but it’s the quality of the product that brings them back for more. The company is looking for more locations along the south coast and then hopes to venture further afield next year.

Another brand that’s already finding favour is the likes of BP, Co-op, Spar, Rontec and Welcome Break sites is Chicago Town. The brand’s most recent launch within Chicago Town Pizza-To-Go is the Magnificent Meat Feast stuffed crust pizza, which is proving popular thanks to its “fresh rising dough, tasty toppings and oozing cheese”.

Richard Cooper, senior brand manager at Chicago Town brand owner, Dr. Oetker Professional, says that when it comes to food-to-go, customers are seeking new innovative products, healthier products and more premium quality products.

“Retailers have the opportunity to drive spending through more premiumisation with more consumers purchasing food-to-go as a treat, increasingly at dinner and snacking occasions,” he says. “Consumers tend to favour familiar brands and, with the cost-of-living crisis, are more likely to visit a place they know doesn’t compromise on quality while being good value for money, and our Chicago Town branded offering is widely considered a trusted brand among shoppers.”

Cooper continues: “Good value for money, promotions, loyalty cards and vouchers can increase consumer spending and incentivise visits to a specific venue. This is why we encourage operators to offer deals on Chicago Town Pizza-To-Go products including the quarter slice and whole stuffed crust pizza. Offering these with a drink or snack will help drive incremental spend in your food-to-go category. We can help you create pos solutions to drive more occasions.”

He says meal deals are as popular as ever, but the cost of them has risen. “Continually proving more and more popular are adjustments to the traditional meal deal, with preferences for hot options increasing beyond the traditional cold sandwich, demonstrating the desirability of Chicago Town’s Pizza-To-Go offer. This is particularly pertinent with evening meal deals, which are often successful if they replicate high-street chains, for example: pizza, wedges, chicken strips and a drink.

Will Robinson, managing director at Stone Willy’s says that while forecourts are still wanting to add services to their shops to keep them fresh, operators are understandably cautious given all the economic headwinds and the incoming recession.

In answer to this, he has come up with an entry-level package designed for shops that have conservative targets or are just starting out on their food-to go journey and are looking-to build to around £800 to £1,000 in sales per week. “The package cost is around £10,000 so on sales of around £1,000 per week and a 50% gross margin, customers will have paid for the equipment in around five months,” he explains.

Ladyacre Service Station in Lanark, owned by Aamir Kholehar has just undergone a huge full renovation (the first one in 30 years) and has also joined Londis. It adopted Stone Willy’s entry-level unit and in less than eight weeks managed to hit its sales target on food to go. As a next step, they will be adding an online ordering service for food to go and some other products.

A food-to-go solution that offers convenience and speed of service is Rollover and its hot dogs. Veronica Casalino, trade marketing executive at the company, says that with Rollover, forecourt stores will be able to meet all their customers’ needs for all the food-to-go occasions.

“Starting with breakfast, you can serve Wall’s all-day breakfast sausage baguette and breakfast muffins. Moving into snacking, lunch, and dinner you can opt for a wide range of hotdogs and burgers. And thanks to Rollover’s vegan sausages and halal sausages, all customers’ dietary requirement will be satisfied.”

The latest addition to the range is a new gourmet sausage – the Deli Dog, which is a king size krakauer and cheese sausage. Plus, there is a new improved vegan burger.

She says that store operations can be quite challenging, but again you can rely on Rollover. “We make it operationally easy for you. No cooking is needed. All our products only need to be heated in our bain-maries. Rollover sausages and sauces are ambient and easy to store with a six-month shelf life. We offer next-day delivery on all ambient SKUs and customers can order when is best for them, using our 24/7 user-friendly online platform.”

Casalino adds that Rollover offers a range of equipment and its reps help retailers choose the best equipment solution based on their store and their customer demographics. What is more, it is all available to retailers on a free-on-loan basis.


Stone Willy’s Kitchen is doing very well at Ladyacre Service Station


34% of consumers would pay more than £5 for a meal deal if the products were high quality (Harris Interactive).


Rollover gives forecourts a convenient and speedy food offer

Back to basics

Sometimes with food to go, it’s the simple stuff that works best and that’s what is happening at MFG Blackhorse Garage in Emmerson Green, Bristol. Their bakery operator Maxine Bosdyk starts baking Country Choice goodies early every morning – and we mean really early – at 3.45am.

She starts so early to be ready for their 5.30am opening when customers are queueing up outside to get their hands on a hot pastry item.

“We have workers, lorry drivers, police – all queuing each morning for our sausage rolls, steak bakes and potato dogs. They can’t get enough of them. We also do full breakfasts with sausages, bacon and omelettes and they are popular too.”

Maxine works her way through the Country Choice range, baking until 2pm to ensure they have products through the day. Chicken bakes, vegan pastries, croissants – you name it and Maxine bakes it.

“At around 9.30am we move on to lunch items such as burgers, chicken burgers and pizzas. Then it’s onto the baguettes. We offer nine varieties and sell around 60 a day. The most popular ones are tuna and egg. I think they’re so popular because they are part of our meal deal, You get a baguette, crisps and a drink for £4.49 so it is really good value.”

Maxine says they get very little wastage and the secret to her success is hard work and organisation. “We keep an eye on what sells and we bake little and often although sometimes things are so popular that it is not really a little batch we bake.”

She says the vegan lines aren’t especially popular and is looking forward to the Christmas lines appearing any time now… turkey and stuffing baguette anyone?


Customer expectations

Weekday lunchtimes are the most popular time for eating on the go, with 62% of consumers saying they enjoy picking meal deal combos (Mintel data).

Matt Collins, trading director at KP Snacks, says it is therefore key that retailers offer the right core range in the right formats to capitalise on mealtime occasions, boosted with the right promotions and in-store merchandising. “Retailers should look to create value by understanding customer expectations, whether through premium or value offerings. More than 50% of shoppers look for meal deals when buying food to go (IGD data) and 34% of shoppers say they would pay more than £5 for meal deals if the products were high quality (Harris Interactive). Many office workers have not gone back to the office full time. Hybrid workers may view food-to-go as more of a treat if purchasing less frequently and will likely be willing to spend more, meaning there is an opportunity to create premium lunch deals catered to part-time office workers.”


BOX Stuffed with Sport


MFG is stuffed with sport

Sandwich brand Urban Eat is aiming to get the country ready for a winter of sport with a nationwide competition in partnership with Top 50 Indie MFG.

There are 10 top prizes of a home cinema package plus hundreds of runner-up prizes including Urban Eat footballs. The Stuffed with Sport activation is running across MFG’s stores, with high-impact digital posters and in-store marketing in place to encourage shoppers to enter. Activity will also be supported across Urban Eat’s social media channels to maximise its reach.

Abigail Nelson-Ehoff, brand manager at Urban Eat, says: “We want to help our customers make the most of a thrilling few months of top-quality tournaments with a state-of-the-art viewing set-up – all for the price of a sandwich.

“The partnership with MFG is also testament to how closely we want to work with our valued customers throughout 2023 and beyond.

“There’s a lot more planned, so watch this space!”



100,000 The number of consumers who took part in voting for a new Pot Noodle flavour


Managing meal deals

According to the latest IGD figures, the faster than expected recovery in the post-covid food-to-go market will be dampened by rising inflation. So says Phil Carratt, head of marketing and strategy at Country Choice. But he continues: “With the focus likely to be on value for at least the next 18 months, retailers are in a strong position – if they can get their price, offer and format right.”

Carratt says meal deals are a real asset to retailers but increasing ingredient costs will necessitate creative thinking when it comes to innovation and range extension. “As a result, the price point, range and execution of meal deals will become fiercely competitive, but if a retailer gets the balance right this could be a big win for them.”

He believes careful consideration needs to be given to the entire food-to-go customer journey and experience. “Larger stores in particular will need to work on their layout to ensure food to go is more accessible, especially if they are broadening their range to include things like hot food, servery counters and coffee.”

With regards to deliveries and click & collect, again he believes it is worth retailers looking at the customer journey: “This time online, and taking the opportunity to highlight their range, and in particular any meal deals, to shoppers who are planning ahead. They should also consider how to work with q-commerce partners such as Deliveroo and UberEats to identify new range opportunities focused on delivery.

“Finally, retailers should pay attention to exploring all out-of-home meal occasions in order to identify where they might be able to offer cheaper alternatives or treats, to go with evening meals, breakfast or just a coffee.


MFG Blackhorse does a roaring trade in baked goods from Country Choice