Foodservice Marketing Agency - Food on the Go Conference 2016 - Top Ten Take-outsWith a jam-packed agenda for the day it’s quite a challenge to cram all the key take-outs from M&C Allegra’s Food on the Go conference into one blog, but as the leading foodservice agency we’ll do our best!

1)      Currently the on the go market is possibly the most innovative, dynamic and competitive sector of the out of home market. Growing an impressive 5.4%, it’s outstripping the rest of the market by some way, as food bought to eat off premise (the definition of on the go) accounts for 1 in 4 of every pound spent out of home! With lunch hours now around 27 minutes (dropping from 36 minutes in 2000) the pressure is on for operators to deliver great food, fast!

2)      Highly fragmented, the top ten players account for only 33% of the market with large retailers dominating at the top due to their proliferation of sites. C-stores are gaining share but suffer from a lack of innovation and often limited offer due to the independent family run nature of the business.

3)      Street food is still on the increase and millennials are driving the market with their demand for high quality, good value food on the go. As for the recipe for success? Well, according to M&C Allegra it’s simple – fresher, faster & hotter!

4)      What does the on the go consumer look like (versus the general outing out consumer)? Research findings from M&C Allegra indicates the following: 53% Male (vs. 49% of total Eating Out participants), 66% Under 50 (vs. 51%), 17% London (vs. 13%), 67% Full-time workers (vs. 56%), 36% Earn £40k+ (vs. 31%). What consumers want when it comes to food on the go is pretty simple – fast service, close to work, product freshness and healthier options. Queuing, unsurprisingly, is the biggest frustration, joined by lack of choice and over pricing. Whilst promotions definitely drive sales with 65% of consumers using promotions and 1 in 6 consumers stating they would choose to go elsewhere if a promotion was removed. As for what people are buying on the go, sandwiches and cola are key purchases, as is bottled water, but the popularity of sandwiches is in decline as the rise of other bread carriers and salad options increases.

5)      The rising trends in on the go food include: Pan-Asian, gluten-free, vegetarian, healthier, hot product, Americana, premiumisation and hotter sauces.  And if you’re looking to be inspired by some new and different food to go concepts it’s worth visiting: Wolf Street Italian, The Bowler, Hai Street Kitchen, HOP (exciting Vietnamese concept), ŰGOT (too cool for school, clean eating concept set up by an unfeasibly precocious (in a good way!) gluten avoider instead of a frozen yogurt bar), Friska (with a real vision to ‘refine expectations within our industry from the inside out’), Coco di Mama (owned by Azzuri who also own ZiZi and Ask), Crussh Juice Bars (so much more than just food!), Hackney Eat 17 (a Spar convenience store!) and Vital Ingredient (defining healthy on the go).

6)      Transport hubs are of course a key focus of food on the go and Tom Dobson from Network Rail is responsible for the 18 largest stations in the UK and their F&B offering. In 2020 he predicts 1 billion people will visit these stations and this will generate 1 billion in F&B revenue – impressive stuff. In 2015 alone they experienced 900 million visits to these top 18 stations, an increase of 7%, with like for like sales growing at 6% last year, so food to go concepts looking for a sure bet could do worse than consider key stations for their next opening it would seem.

7)      McDonald’s is the goliath in the food to go market and also boasts some impressive stats….90% of people visit McDonald’s, they have seen 39 consecutive quarters of sales growth, from their research with 5,000 consumers they know that 17-24 year olds want more spice on the menu and don’t feel that McDonald’s is contemporary enough. This is something the company is addressing with its roll-out of new concept stores, which include: a signature range of more thicker, more premium burgers, customisation, a new look including a new style uniform and convenient touch screen ordering points. Keep an eye out for these new and improved stores coming soon! The bad news, unlike the US they won’t be doing all day breakfast (sad times).

8)      The challenges and opportunities common to operators big and small consist of – the crazy London property market with exorbitant rents and unreasonable contracts, minimising queue times, getting and keeping good people, competition, standing out in the market, creating an emotional engagement to their brand which keeps customers loyal and delivering consistently high quality food to a highly discerning and increasingly impatient customer base. Whilst opportunities include: focusing on what they do well rather than becoming a jack of all trades, the use of technology around payment and pre-ordering both in store and pre-store visit, social media engagement and use as a real time customer relations and service tool, expansion into other locations and even countries, partnering up with other operators (e.g. Starbucks and Pod / Costa and Chop’d), understanding consumer behaviour around food on the go, the rise of Pan Asian, Middle Eastern and free from.

9)      In at nine and more of an observation than a take-out, it would seem that the majority of food on the go start-ups are run by ex-bankers who obsess about their lunch for years from the confines of the city before taking the plunge and leaving the trading floors, boardrooms and city bonuses behind to make lunchtimes more enjoyable for the rest of us!

10)   Finally and possibly the key take-out for the day – if you stack two keep cups from Friska they are the same height as a groundhog! Good to know.

Thankfully having been to the 2015 Food on the Go conference, I can say without a doubt that this years was far from a groundhog day (see what I did there!) as it brought together all players in the food to go market from the big boys like McDonald’s, Starbucks, Leon, Wild Bean Café and Pret to new innovative start-ups like Friska, Hop and ŰGOT offering up the latest market data and insights to keep everything aptly fresh. Well done to the team at M&C Allegra on another great event. To find out more about M&C Allegra visit

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