Dish With A Difference

We’re talking about: restaurants biting into food-to-go

Attracting the crowds for weekday lunches can be hard, so many are turning to grab-and-go and customisable offerings.

17 October 2019
food-to-golunchmeatpersonalisationrestaurantsstreet food
  • The Dish: Haggis and caramelised onion toastie with molten cheese
  • The Place: Mac & Wild
  • The Chef: Lucas Pope

What? Scottish restaurant Mac & Wild have launched a brand new grab and go concept in a bid to offer Londoners a new alternative to the lunchtime supermarket sandwich, with a focus on sustainable Scottish produce.

It’s targeted the lunch time spend with both healthy offerings along with indulgent eats.

There’s a toastie and sausage roll menu with items like the haggis and caramelised onion toastie oozing with molten cheese, the vegan toastie packed with pickled peppers and herb pesto, as well as foot-long homemade venison and black pudding or classic pork and herb sausage rolls.

Customisable Grain Bowls are also on the menu. There’s the Me-so Hebridean a bowl with diced citrus miso salmon, super grains, avocado, homemade kimchee and edamame or the 3PV, a plant pulse bowl with vegan haggis pops, super grains, avocado, spicy raw kale salad and Scotch Bonnet hot sauce.

A heartier option  includes The Vindamoo, a fiery beef brisket bowl with super grains, curried lobster mayonnaise and roasted sweet tattie salsa. Each grain bowl can also be personalised with Mac & Wild’s Kilt Droppers, AKA toppers such as crispy onions, truffled nuts, haggis crumb and pickled scotch seaweed.

Scottish snacks will also be available from Tunnock Tea Cake and Mackies Crisps to All Butter Shortbread and Scottish tablet, a sugar confection mad with condensed milk and butter with vanilla or whisky flavouring often added.

Where? Mac & Wild is dishing up these delights at its Devonshire Square restaurant.

“The grab and go is about us offering quick and delicious lunchtime food with a healthy balance, using our incredible produce. We’ve focused on the grain bowls to offer Londoners a fast and healthy option, but if guests are after a dirtier snack, then the sausage rolls or cheese toasties should quench their hunger,” said Andy Waugh, co-founder of Mac & Wild. “It’s always exciting to be serving Londoners produce sent to us from my family in the Highlands.”

Why? Food-to-go has been described as one of the shining lights in an eating out sector that is otherwise somewhat subdued. Lunch is the most popular meal-time for grab and go in particular, accounting for 23% of all visits, according to MCA data. Meanwhile, food-to-go now accounts for 43.8% of total eating out occasions.

Food-to-go is beating eating in too, according to The NPD Group. For the year ending July 2018, there were 4.4bn on-premise visits, a drop of 3.5%, versus 5.1bn food-to-go visits, an increase of 2%. For foodservice operators, there’s money to be made as well from food-to-go: the market has increased by £2.5bn since mid-2015, three times as fast as on-premise spend.

It makes sense then that restaurants are looking to take a share of the pie, particularly as for many its notoriously hard to get bums on seat during the week lunchtime trade.

Other places are also getting in on the act too with a focus on the personalisation side of things.

Freak Scene, the Soho pan-Asian restaurant from chef Scott Hallsworth has launched a new street food concept for lunch.

The Freak Scene Kanteen, located in the restaurant, is open from Monday to Friday 11am 3pm. Customers will be able to choose from a base of jasmine rice or thin egg noodles and toppings such as Crispy Furama Fried Chicken (£7.00), spicy Thai pork sausage (£7.50), miso grilled aubergine with a chilli, lime & tomato relish and walnuts (£6.50) and slow cooked sweet soy and ginger short rib (£8.50). Customers can then further customise their dishes with homemade sauces free on the counter including mustard teriyaki and Thai meat sauce.

“We wanted to inject a new sense of freshness with our dishes and we’ve been working on some killer recipes over the summer to perfect these – the pork belly donut buns are insanely good,” added Hallsworth. “The Freak Scene Kanteen has come off the back of the epic street food we ate in Thailand earlier this year and wanting to create a lunch time offering around this – fast, casual and delicious.”

American seafood restaurant Bob’s Lobster have also introduced a range of USA-inspired deli-style sandwiches for its new Tuesday to Friday express lunch offering. Available on weekdays only from 12pm to 5pm, people can choose from the Lobster BLT; a tuna melt made with confit sashimi grade tuna; a hot dog with a beef and pork frankfurter; Shrimp Po’Boy with battered Atlantic prawns and a Fried Oyster Slider made with Maldon rock oysters and served with caper aioli, lettuce and shisho in a brioche bun.

Utilising the restaurant space for lunchtime grab and go is trend that’s likely to continue as well. Over the next three years, the food-to-go sector is expected to add £2bn to its value, reaching £23bn in 2022, thanks to the growing time pressures faced by the UK’s workforce as well as widening accessibility, says MCA.

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