Source: Andrew Catterall Photography

Mark McCammond: “Food to go is the hardest thing to do in this environment and if it is done well it means you are a good retailer”

Running a successful food to go operation means being prepared to pivot: to try new concepts and quickly switch to others if they do not work. This is one of the pieces of advice that Henderson Group’s retail director Mark McCammond will tell delegates in a video at the Forecourt Trader Summit on Tuesday 27 February.

Mark, who was filmed ahead of the event at the company’s Spar Mallusk store in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, last year’s winner of Forecourt Trader’s food to go award, will explain how an ice cream and shakes bar did not fit the store’s demographic, despite dessert bars being all the rage on UK high streets. He quickly replaced the concept with a pizza bar in January that had the added benefit of being able to sell heat at home versions in the chiller.


Source: Andrew Catterall Photography

The Pizza Bar gives food to go an impetus after 3pm

Other surprises in the breakfast to dinner 7am to 11pm food to go offer have been the success of plant-based oat coffees from its Barista Bar, which now account for 16% of the 2,000 to 2,500 cups of coffee to go sold at the site a week. Also its Burrito Bar bowls, among the healthier options in its food to go offer, are the top seller. And Sunday roast dinners are popular too, particularly with younger couples who don’t have the inclination to make their own.


Source: Andrew Catterall Photography

Burrito Bar bowls are the top seller


Source: Andrew Catterall Photography

Mallusk’s Barista Bar sells between 2,000 to 2,500 cups of coffee to go a week

The Mallusk site, which runs an £8,000 a week Subway concession alongside its own five bespoke offers, from southern fried chicken to curry and rice meals, also boasts a seating area and a drive-thru. It is popular with workmen and families, particularly at the weekend.

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The 5,200 sq ft store is split in two with food to go at the front and an impressive grocery range, complete with a local butchery section, behind. The site is also unusual in that its neighbourhood is largely industrial, with many businesses in the area, although there is a high passing trade and residential areas on the outskirts.

It is one of 106 owned and operated by Henderson Group, and is a test bed for trying out ideas before rolling them out elsewhere in the estate. It is on the doorstep of Hendersons’ head office and staff are visiting it daily to buy their own food and provide ideas.

McCammond will also explain how technology has been central in the success of food to go, with margins of 60% and accounting for 25% of the store’s turnover. Customers can avoid queues by ordering and paying at an in-store kiosk, and none of the staff handle cash with payment of coins, notes or cards made directly into the EdgePos and Glory’s automated checkouts. Also food to go wastage, a problem which can put off forecourt operators from entering this business, is reduced with the Relex AI-powered replenishment system which monitors stock forecast and demand, and factors in the weather and school holidays, for example.

“Food to go is the hardest thing to do in this environment and if it is done well it means you are a good retailer,” says McCammond.

The Forecourt Trader Summit takes place at The Belfry Hotel & Resort, Sutton Coldfield on Tuesday 27 February 2024.