We travel to Westhill services, owners of both an MXP and a Frymac, to look at their successful food-to-go operation and see what lessons can be learnt from them.
Westhill Services: Serving hot food-to-go in a forecourt: 4 Key Practices
6 Months ago High Speed Ovens supplied Westhill Services (Aberdeen) with an MXP and a FryMac as part of a kitchen refurbishment. We recently paid them a visit to see how they were getting on.
Serving hot food-to-go since 2000, the services, operated by Darren Moir, are comparative veterans in what is still a growing market in the UK. Indeed, according to the Forecourt Shop website the percentage of forecourts with a bake off operation have jumped from 22% in 2013 to almost 50% in 2015. We’ve outlined what we think are 4 important things to consider for a forecourt about to take the plunge.
Do keep in mind there are multiple areas when it comes to fresh food. Whatever you’re offering you’ll definitely need some chilled storage space (most likely you’ll already have this.) Buying in pre-made product e.g. sandwiches with a good shelf life has been made possible by companies such as Tiffin Sandwiches and Urban Eat who both offer delivery throughout much of the country.
Frozen storage will need to be considered if you go down the bake-off route. Companies such as Country Choice and Cuisine de France both offer substantial options. At Westhill services, morning bake-off accounts for a good percentage of the sales (we saw a lot of sausage rolls heading out!) One caution of note: do not underestimate the amount of freezer space needed even for a small offering with need for at least a couple of chest freezers.
With a busy breakfast & lunch trade Westhill had 3 full-time staff between 8am – 2pm. Anyone starting food wouldn’t need this level to begin with, but an allowance for a dedicated food service manager must be made (indeed many franchises that are entering forecourts are insisting on having full time dedicated staff). Customers are always time short and if they can’t see someone to serve them they will simply walk away.Array
Product Merchandising & Point of Sale
Most forecourt customers are in a hurry, filling up and getting from A to B, and there is a limited window to convince the customer on that impulse purchase. Outside: banners, pavement signs, fuel pump posters; Inside: ceiling hangers, shelf clips and posters. All are hit points to try and lodge a purchase in the customers mind.
More impactful than any of these though, well stocked hot displays and chilled displays have great appeal, and in a forecourt situation, the old adage of ‘people buy with their eyes’ is very applicable.Array
Know Your Customers
Are you busiest at breakfast or lunch? Or is it the commute home when you see most of your customers? Knowing the answer to these questions will help you to set up your food area appropriately be it a big breakfast offering, a lunch menu or an evening take-out.
Think carefully about not trying to focus on all 3 day parts at once though, as it would mean having food trained staff for multiple shifts. Westhill for example, have built up a strong breakfast & lunch offering and are now looking to add an evening trade focusing on take-out pizza which should work well in conjunction with their great beer selection.