At 7.00 am this morning a new foodservice format was opened by Sainsbury’s supermarkets at 76 Fleet Street, London. Remember this date, as it is likely to be the time when the High Street food offers that we all know, have to adjust to a new and powerful food operator in their midst.
Sainsbury’s Fresh Kitchen – it says it all in the name. A foodservice offer on the High Street (or on this occasion Fleet Street), that offers fresh food, from a on site kitchen. This allows a far wider range of hot meals and crucially, allows direct competition to the traditional sandwich providers, like Pret and Eat.
What is really interesting about this operation is that it is the first stand-alone foodservice offer by a supermarket, not relying on a larger store for support or services. Brave? I don’t think so, but you have to know what you are doing in fresh food to achieve the goals that all consumers want. Sainsbury’s have shown again that they have a winning formula with their results issued yesterday. A very strong performance over Christmas at a critical time.
What is also interesting is that this pitches the supermarket chain in direct competition to other high street “food to go” operators. Prêt, Eat, McDonald’s, Chilango, Tortilla, Burley’s and a whole host of other operations appear firmly in the sights of the supermarket chain.
The format is not “fixed” in that the hot food offer can flex throughout the day, week and year, and not being a “single product” provider, like burgers, asian or tortillas, certainly widens the appeal. Offering the consumer a changing hot and fresh offer is innovative, all backed up by the brand values of Sainsbury’s.
It will be interesting to see how the operation, the quality of the food and drink and the extensive hot foods offer compete in this sector as many of our industry’s observers, including ourselves at Coverpoint, have had the hot food to go sector as “one to watch in 2011”. From what I saw on the shelves and what I sampled this morning the offer is good. But there is a subtle, but important difference. The price point is lower, in some cases 10-15% lower than other providers. How long will it take the consumer to realise this in such price sensitive times? I don’t know, but supermarket value has well and truly arrived at the doorstep of high street foodservice.
There is no doubt that Sainsbury’s will flex their substantial buying power to deliver a high quality product at a high street beating price which in these careful economic times will be well received by all consumers, regardless of their spending power.
The operation consists of chilled cabinets to the right as you enter the unit and a “face on” counter, with square-cut glass sneeze screens, that cleverly operate as both hot, chilled and ambient according to the time of day and menu offer. Backing up the counter is a small hot food finishing area and then the preparation and cooking kitchen behind.
Seven tills with card reader facilities are available to process the extensive queues that are expected in the unit and service times will hopefully be quite short once delivery processes are smoothed out. We will report agin on this in a few weeks time.
I have no doubt that most competitors will be viewing Fleet Street over the next few weeks to see if there is further opportunity for their own brands to develop foodservice offers in this consumer space. We will be reviewing the food quality and service in a few weeks time once the operation has had the chance to bed down but if you are in the area, I would strongly suggest that you go and take a look.
There were a few people I recognised this morning, hanging around the store with cameras, who run the companies that Sainsbury’s Fresh Kitchen is aimed at. I’m glad it wasn’t raining!
Happy New Year.