MJ’s Premier Store, situated in Housing Estate, UK, owner Justin Whittaker honored with Food to go Retailer Award in the Asian Trader Awards 2019.
Justin Whittaker says “We identified that whilst our food-to-go offer was great for breakfast and dinner – from 4pm we were quiet. Yet takeaways are thriving in the evening. We were missing a trick. We also identified that we were missing ‘millennials’ from our customer base. So we introduced the desserts bar to complement the rest of our food-to-go offering by giving an offer for the evening trade and something that would appeal to the younger generation – waffles, crepes and premium ice cream! The desserts bar alone takes £4,000 a week with a profit margin of +50%. We’ve introduced exclusive offers, such as Waffle Wednesday (buy one get one free) or Monday 2 pizzas and Pepsi for £10. And we’ve developed an ordering app to maximise the appeal of the dessert bar, appeal to our younger more ‘tech-savvy’ younger generation and to future proof our business. Customers can click onto a Facebook post to ‘shop now’. We’re doing £1,500 business with the app and more importantly, it’s all on high profit lines. Add to that our food-to-go zone with coffee machine, doughnut rack, hot cabinet, noodle snacks, grab and go chiller, which includes sandwiches and meal deals. There’s something for everyone throughout the day. Evenings are now our busiest time of day for food to go! We already had a good broad food-to-go offering to cover most requirements for grab-and-go. Our food-to-go zone includes a coffee machine, doughnut rack, hot cabinet, noodle snacks, F’real milkshakes and a chiller (with sandwiches, crisps and soft drinks). Now that we’ve introduced the desserts bar we’ve got an offer that is really popular with the younger generation and also for evening trade. That’s what was missing before. The investment in the desserts bar was £80k. Payback was just 6 months.”
He says about the best-performing component of food-to-go. “This year, we’ve built a dessert bar! This has definitely proved to be the best performing component of our food to go offer. It cost £80k to install and payback has been just 6 months. Previously a large proportion of our business was driven through promotions, so our POR was just 19%. We reduced SKUs across the store to create space to build our ‘Just Desserts Co’ bar. It’s a vibrant pink – really distinct and completely different from the rest of the store. We sell a range of cream cakes, premium ice cream, crepes and waffles with a variety of toppings. The unit also houses a Chicago Town pizza station, milkshakes and a Tango ice blast with carbonated slush. The dessert bar is already taking £4,000/week and with +50% profit margins. Different daily offers include Waffle Wednesday (BOGOF), Pancake Tuesday (BOGOF) and Monday x2 pizzas and Pepsi for £10. Customers are quite happy to wait while their waffle is being created in-store! The teatime solution has always been a problem but with the dessert bar and pizza options we have now started to evolve into this market especially at the weekends”.
He describes about two key challenges facing Convenience and explain his plans for taking advantage of them. “Falling footfall (traditional services in decline ie news and mags, tobacco) and reduced margins (a store doing 19% gross profit cannot survive). Anything new coming into the store has to have a minimum of 30% POR tapping into the millenniums (who have never bought a newspaper or cigs in there life) ie Tango Ice Blast costs £1:10 selling at £5 also not leaving out the silver greys by doing great shop local deals ie local milk, bread and eggs again with some great margins. Also taking a great local shop with traditional values and putting it into the modern world with a great app connected to FB”.
He says three ways in which he have responded and retained footfall after a new discounter/supermarket opened in his catchment area. “1 We added a ‘Dessert Co’ dessert bar in vibrant pink – really distinct and completely different from the rest of the store. We sell a range of cream cakes, premium ice cream, crepes and waffles with a variety of toppings, creating a ‘store within a store’ effect to attract younger customers with different deals every day eg Waffle Wednesday to add interest 2 We developed an ordering app to maximise the appeal of the dessert bar. Customers click on a Facebook post to ‘shop now’ and place their order – for pick up or for delivery. We’re doing £1,500 business with the app. 3 We ensure that we’re active on social media. It’s the key tool that we use for promoting all our activities and for connecting with our customers and the community. For example, when we put Gordon’s pink gin on promotion at £12/bottle with a free glass and promoted it on Facebook the post reached 59,000 people and we sold £2,500 in one day. When all the banks in the area closed, we put in an ATM and posted ‘free cash, like and share’. It reached 129,000 people”.