Whenever, Wherever: U.K. Restaurants Look to Broaden Their Reach

U.K. restaurants and grocers seeking to stay top of mind with their customers are racing to open units in nontraditional locations and roll out convenience-oriented services—all in an effort to position themselves as reliable, go-to brands of choice.

All Bar One will aim to perk up Birmingham Airport travellers with everything from freshly made frittatas to quesadillas to contemporary cocktails come April, when the chain opens its first airport unit at the travel hub. London-based Leon, for its part, is looking to capture the attention of on-the-move consumers hungry for “naturally fast food” with a recently opened unit at the Eurotunnel U.K. terminal in Folkestone, Kent, and another set to open this month at East Midlands Airport. (The chain already has a location at Heathrow.)

And grocery giants Tesco and Waitrose are rolling out Click-and-Collect grocery pickup service at select London Underground stations. Through the service, customers can place a grocery order online and then pick up their order from temperature-controlled Click-and-Collect lockers. Tesco already has more than 200 collection locations at its stores, at car parks and at other sites.

This drive to be ever-present in consumers’ lives may be seen as borne out of necessity in an increasingly on-demand, convenience-craving society. More than four in five consumers polled last year for Technomic’s U.K. Café Consumer Trend Report, for example, said that grab-and-go options could increase their visitation at coffee cafés, bakery cafés and patisseries. (Twenty percent said they expect these locations to offer grab-and-go items and will go elsewhere if such choices are not available.) Among consumers who reported visiting coffee cafés more often in the past year, 47% cited convenient locations and 40% identified fast service as reasons for their increased patronage.

Convenience is the name of the game in recent moves by Costa Coffee and Patisserie Valerie. Reuters reported in December that Costa is aiming to double its number of Costa Express self-serve coffee units—in place in locations such as offices, schools and hospitals—to 6,000 by 2018. The Costa Express business contributed £7 million of profit to Whitbread-owned Costa in 2012-13 before overhead and marketing costs, according to Reuters. And Costa, which ranked No. 4 on Technomic’s 2013 list of the Leading 100 U.K. Chain Restaurants, saw U.K. systemwide sales climb 18.5% in 2012.

Patisserie Valerie, another chain that saw significant sales growth in 2012 (nearly 32%), is seeking to offer convenience via delivery: The chain is expanding its delivery service to central London after the offering proved successful in a trial in Leeds, British Baker magazine reported last month.

It will be interesting in the coming year to watch the continued evolution of restaurants’ and retailers’ push for brand ubiquity—of being available nearly wherever, whenever and however consumers seek to do business with the brand. Capitalising on opportunities to be a “rescue” for consumers, whether they’re craving better food at the airport or looking to enjoy their favourite coffee and pastries without leaving the office, can be invaluable in building brand loyalty.


Darren Tristano

Darren Tristano is President of Technomic Inc. Since 1993, he has led the development of Technomic’s Information Services division and directed multiple aspects of the firm’s operations.

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