When the labs were announced by Dalton in September there was a small indicator that they would be in areas where Morrisons are strong, indeed it transpired that the Productivity ‘lab’ in York was the local store to Dalton and a dominant store in the centre of York (now facing fierce competition from Waitrose next door.)
The ‘fresh’ lab in Kirkstall didn’t surprise many by its location considering the local area being predominantly students who are only served by a relatively small Sainsbury’s, therefore a trial of fresh products makes sense in a store like Kirkstall as it’s also within Leeds which is a Morrisons dominated postcode (along with the hometown of BD – Bradford).
The ‘liberate’ lab has been opened in Shrewsbury which seems an interesting selection but again Shrewsbury is another postcode where Morrisons has domination according to data in 2006 so perhaps it’s unsurprising that this location was chosen as a Midlands location makes sense rather than all the trials being in the north of England.
The one trial that appears to have slipped under the radar is the hot sandwich / pizza to go counter that’s been in operation for a good while in Victoria, Bradford store. This store was the site of the first ever supermarket that Morrisons built before it turned into the Farmers Boy facility until that was moved down the road (with the original head office over the road) and a new supermarket was constructed in its place which opened in the early noughties.
|Victoria – Bradford store.|
The store is (I believe) the 2nd largest after Enterprise 5 for square footage so is a particularly large store and trades well with a good level of trade whenever I’ve visited.
The new ‘fresh 2 go’ counter which features readymade pizza, hot beef / hot pork sandwiches, hot subs to go and hot pizza slices is situated at the back of the store. The Pharmacy did used to be located where the new counter is (next to the Bakery) but that has been moved to a vacant unit at the front of the store.
The counter upon first glance is far more ‘open’ that the traditional counters, the Salad bar (where Pizza is traditionally made) is relatively restricted in terms of the ‘theatre’ whereas the new counter produces Pizza and other sandwiches on a much less restrictive basis to allow the customer to see what is going on.
|New ‘fresh to go’ counter with lowered shelving for theatre|
The counter offers sub rolls on a ‘create your own’ basis along with Panini’s and toasties that the staff can toast for you, it’s more serviced than Kirkstall where much of their counter offering is self service, much of the lunch offering is available at the counter with sandwiches and pasta bowls alongside hot sandwiches and Pizza.
The store does retain a sandwich / snack offering at the front of the store but the bulk of the offer is now at the ‘fresh 2 go’ counter along with standard, in store and create your own Pizza.
The focus is on ‘freshly prepared snacks’ with a few subtle changes in the offer, Bacon and Sausage sandwiches being available until 11am and from 11am the hot sandwich offer is Pork and Stuffing or Beef and Gravy in a roll for £1.99. Fantastic value and it’s customised to your needs – whether you want your roll with butter for example – again using the in store scale by using in store baked rolls and Beef and Pork freshly cut from the In store Butcher.
|Sandwich menu board with a varied offer for all tastes.|
The ‘sub’ sandwiches are designed to cash in on the success of Subway and their sandwiches, Morrisons offer a customisable sandwich to complement the existing offer of pre filled baguettes priced at £2.49 for a full sub or £1.49 for a half. The process is split up into stages for the customer to customise and make it simple for ordering purposes – again it’s fully serviced so the sandwich is made in front of your eyes.
|Back board gives an overview of the process to follow (complete with ADM on the phone!)|
|Start of the process is the selection of specific sub roll variety.|
|Plenty of choice here!|
The secondary part of the counter brings theatre to the art of Pizza making, Asda have had this side of the operation sewn up for a good number of years really with the in store pizza offer.
Morrisons have always offered the create your own and in store pizza but with the counter part of the Salad bar, it’s somewhat difficult to see a member of staff as they tend to be hidden away preparing salads and not solely producing Pizza for example. Kirkstall have resolved that a bit with the open Olive bar with Pizza prepared in the background but there is no ‘bespoke’ Pizza counter to my knowledge within the stores I regularly visit.
Victoria does change that somewhat with the second half of the counter used for preparation of Pizzas, bespoke pizza and there is even a service where staff will cook the Pizza for an extra £1 to allow the customer to take freshly prepared hot pizza away. I don’t think you can get much fresher than that!
|The hot pizzas are also prepared by the counter and sold for £1 per slice.|
|3 stage process – first stage is base – a good variety of bases including stuffed crust.|
|4 toppings to be chosen for stage 2.|
|Stage 3 – finish! Have it cooked if you wish!?|
There are a pre made selection of pizzas with the usual offering but the main difference with this ‘trial’ counter is the addition of theatre and real ‘service’ for the Pizza category. Not only the larger pizzas but there is a growing market for shoppers who want sandwiches and ‘food 2 go’. Typically these customers will go to pick up a sandwich – this is a relatively tired category across Retail now with sandwiches being a general offering across the board without much innovation.
Morrisons have historically retained a strong offering with ‘Oven Fresh’ touting for the lunchtime trade with the Chicken to go / Chicken Bites + Wedges offer which is in addition to the sandwich range and salad bar. Obviously Kirkstall have pushed the envelope further with their revamped premium offering in the Salad bar but the addition of the Pizza to go counter in Victoria changes things further, especially with the take out slices for £1 which represents brilliant value.
Additionally, as I mentioned in a previous blog, the hot Beef sandwich for £1.99 is wonderful value and provides even more invigoration in the sandwich offering in this store, not only are there hot sandwiches but a range of Panini’s and toasties that can be cooked in store to provide another reason for customers to have their dinner in store.
Naturally this is where the challenge comes for Morrisons to maintain good standards and availability for new customers, if attracted by their lunchtime / food 2 go offer then there is the opportunity to convert the lunchtime shopper to a grocery shopper and thus taking their spend from a competitor.
If they can do that, then it drives growth and subsequent profitability. Whilst this counter isn’t a lab, it’s more of a trial – it would be something relatively easy to roll out across the estate as Pizzas are produced in many (if not all) stores by hand although it would require the Pizza counter area (often doubled with the Salad Bar) to be opened up for service.
|In addition to the salad bowls there are toasties, panninis and pre filled subs.|
|The whole ethos of the counter is service, service and service.|
The Oven Fresh department sell Stuffing so for them to produce some Pork and Beef, shred it and offer as a sandwich is another simple switch and could be taken nationwide relatively easily. There would be challenges regarding the Panini’s and Toasties and specific preparation and serving but overall it would be a far simpler logistical challenge implementing this than some of the Kirkstall trials (for example) that would be very much dependent on store size, regionality and demographic.
Upon my two visits there I found the staff absolutely first class, despite the queue and good level of trade they were helpful when preparing the hot sandwiches, if you are in the area I urge you to give the hot Beef sandwich a try!