Food to go fever grips Scotland

A busy old time for shopfitter Vertex

Vertex has been installing food to go counters both small and large in stores

JUST about everyone is busy in retail at the moment but there are few who can claim to be as busy as the team at Vertex.

The rise and rise of food to go has been a rejuvenating force for Scottish c-stores, a trend that has given the shopfitting firm plenty to do as enterprising shop owners invest to improve their offer.

Craig Pringle, business development manager at Vertex, doesn’t see the food to go trend tapering off any time soon either, suggesting that the markets in other countries show there’s still plenty of room for growth

“Inquiries over the last six months have been unreal,” said Craig. “I think retailers are seeing an opportunity. Northern Ireland is really good at food to go, and if you go to the USA just about every shop has something and we’re getting better.

“There’s a lot of my retailer customers that are thinking outside the box as they’re seeing this happen.”

Thinking outside of the box is great but, by the same token, Craig doesn’t believe retailers need to reinvent the wheel either. He highlighted a recent job in Blantyre, where retailer Mo Razzaq worked with Vertex to install an ice cream counter. It’s the kind of job that doesn’t require overhauling the store’s offer, but which gives Family Shopper Blantyre a point of difference over local competition.

Craig Pringle said even freeing up a small space for food to go can raise sales

And with Scottish Government match-funding grants for food to go scheduled for distribution to retailers up and down the country, Craig anticipates even more work coming soon.

“I think once these grants get awarded that will be a big period of investment,” he said.

Investment is one thing, but spending funds wisely is another, which is why Craig recommends retailers who are on the verge of investing in food to go make sure to do their homework.

Craig said that while the team at Vertex offers a full turnkey service, including design work and shopfitting, it’s always helpful when a retailer has a good idea of what they want.

“They’ve got to work out, is it a cook-off? A bake-off? Are they going to buy in prepared sandwiches? They’ve got to know what product they’re selling.

“If it’s a bake-off, then maybe we need to have a smaller hot counter and larger cold counter. Try and have that information when approaching us.”

If you can free up two metres by two metres in store then you can quite easily create something.

What retailers choose to put in the counter can make all the difference when it comes to standing out from the competition, and Craig does think there’s something to be said for sourcing local, a trend which he thinks is gaining traction in Scotland’s c-stores.

“If you can tie in with a local butcher or baker and support your local community that’s great. Scotland has the best larder in the world and we can tap into that.

“Vertex doesn’t just deal with convenience stores, I work with a lot of butchers and farm shops and they have started to tie in with stores.

“My key bit of advice would be what are you looking to sell? Are you looking to go down the local route or tie in with a wholesaler? Really find out what offer you’re after. Do you want it at the till point, or a franchise somewhere in store?”

Craig added that it’s not just the small local suppliers that get results, as Vertex is currently in discussions with two Scottish wholesalers on bringing about what he reckons could be exciting new food to go concepts.

All of this may seem like a good deal for Scottish suppliers but it’s also paying dividends for retailers according to Craig who said one of his most recent retail customers is already taking in £1200 per week on filled rolls and coffee to go.

Craig Pringle said stores have been enjoying a lift from coffee to go facilities

For any retailers who like the sound of that kind of revenue uplift, Craig suggested that installing a food to go section doesn’t need to take up too much space either.

While Vertex does carry out a lot of major franchise work, teaming up with brands like Subway and Stone Willy, there is also plenty of scope for smaller scale improvements that bring big results.

“If you can free up two metres by two metres in store then you can quite easily create something. I see a lot of ice cream parlours opening up at the moment,” he said.

From the design and shopfitting end of things, Craig believes Vertex have retailers covered, but he did add that what can make a good food to go concept great undoubtedly comes down to the enthusiasm of the retailer, and he encouraged prospective clients to throw their weight behind the idea

“You’ve really got to put your heart and soul into it. It’s not a case of saying ‘I’ve got a grant of £20,000 and kitting the store out. Retailers have got to work it,” he said.