Asda is looking to tempt customers with a high value, low cost in-store dining option that it is rolling out across multiple sites in its estate. FEJ looks at how it has worked closely with its catering equipment suppliers to get the concept just right.
Supermarkets have operated in-store cafes for years and years, but as foodservice becomes a more important extension of their core retail offering, the leading chains are having to think careful about how best to optimise the space at their disposal.
When Asda began exploring the feasibility of introducing a new café concept, the challenge from the outset was to create a design that would fit in with its brand identity but which also reflected ‘high street style’ with room for future adaptation.
What it arrived at was a quality in-store dining experience called ‘Express Diner’. With a 16-inch pizza costing just £5 and everything else £1, including jacket potatoes and hot dogs, the concept provides shoppers with a compelling dining option that won’t burn a huge hole in their pocket. Reflecting demand for high street brands and added value, customers can enjoy Seattle coffee and Yorkshire tea, while Ella’s pouches are free with any menu purchase when feeding a baby. Soft drink refills and filtered water are also free as an enticement.
The first Express Diner was trialled in Grantham and proved such a success that the format has now been rolled out to superstores in Leicester, Colne in Lancashire and Strelley in Nottinghamshire. Reports suggest at least another seven are planned in the coming months.
Graeme Cherrie, design manager for Asda’s fresh food areas, says: “Our traditional cafes offer breakfast and hot meals through to coffee and cake, but the new Express Diners are a fresh, value-for-money concept where customers can eat in or take away. Our customers want quality and choice at great value for money, and so they can enjoy a drink and a bite to eat while in-store we continue to invest in our in-house offering.”
Our traditional cafes offer breakfast and hot meals through to coffee and cake, but the new Express Diners are a fresh, value-for-money concept where customers can eat in or take away”
From the beginning, Asda’s objective was to achieve a contemporary high street feel while bringing in elements of the Asda brand identity. Crucially, the counters and displays also needed to be flexible so they could quickly be adapted to reflect future fashion trends.
One of its key suppliers on the project was therefore Alan Nuttall Ltd, which is one of the most diverse, privately-owned shopfitting companies in the UK, employing 60 staff. It has almost 50 years’ expertise in interior fit-out, fixture design and shopfitting, with clients including the likes of Costa, Pret A Manger, Fortnum & Mason and the Royal Albert Hall.
Alan Nuttall has designed and installed bespoke solutions for Asda’s deli and pizza counters for 20 years, so it was ideally placed to meet the brief and recommend the Flexeserve Intelligent Chassis Counter System as a solution. The system offers a less restrictive approach to selling food, enabling outlets to become a ‘theatre set’ of flexible equipment that is easily modified and interchangeable.
With the distinctive series of flexible link and lock modular counters that can attach to nine modules from a single 32amp 3 phase supply utilising a single electrical connection, operators can choose from a whole range of heated, chilled or ambient drop-in displays, from heated and chilled delis and multidecks to bain marie, soup modules and jacket potato stations.
The system offers the flexibility to add or remove units to suit trends and seasonality, refresh with interchangeable valance panels and re-configure in a straight line or with internal or external angles and curves.
The Flexeserve system at the Express Diners has a ‘premium’ look and feel, incorporating wood and chrome, and features equipment designed and developed by Nuttalls including a Ceran pizza holding unit and a hot dog heating and holding unit, as well as matching condiment stations.
What it likes most, says Cherrie, is that Flexeserve is modular and versatile. “Fashions come and go, but our focus is always on value for money, so this engineering provided a great opportunity for our requirements, enabling us to future-proof our in-store dining concepts.”
Future-proof foodservice equipment
The supermarket sector is changing quite rapidly and many in the catering equipment supply chain predict the market will enter a period of transition as the leading players bid to evolve their foodservice propositions. Mick Steele, technical director at Alan Nuttall, is one of those forecasting big changes.
“In all likelihood, the supply chain for catering will start to reflect the high street, which will undergo a transformation as shoppers return there; today’s demanding customers are looking for ever more diverse offers and equipment to display and maximise the product penetration,” he comments.
“High street brands will penetrate the concessions requirement and populate a significant square footage in supermarkets, while the supermarkets themselves will create catering brands for internal enhancement, such as Asda’s new Express Diner, and look to equipment that is flexible and versatile to create ‘pop-up’ solutions for this diverse requirement.”
Asda Express Diner’s catering equipment portfolio:
- Hot and cold self-serve counters
- Bar and restaurant counters
- Bakery equipment
- Salad bars
- Ambient and refrigerated produce displays
- Heated multidecks
- Refrigerated multidecks