We’re lucky at WBC to be invited to attend a variety of showcase events around the UK, in support of our customers. Not least because it give us the opportunity to get out of the office and meet customers face-to-face, and let’s face it, very little arm twisting is needed when amazing food and drink is on offer.
I was recently asked to present our retail display, props and visual merchandising offerings at one such event held for contract caterers. The event is designed to highlight the newest food & drink trends available to them. You may have been to an event similar to this, but the idea is to give catering managers & chefs working at some of the country’s top business & industry sites, the practical knowledge and tools to effectively compete with their rivals on the high street.
I work with many of the UK’s top contract caterers and have found that increasingly the sector is aware that in order to compete with high street food chains like Pret a Manger, Costa, or EAT for example, they need to create the look and feel that’s inspiring their customers and guaranteeing those retailers maintain a steady footfall.
That can be easier said than done. The food itself isn’t the problem – from what we’ve seen the quality and variety within contract catering is truly astonishing, and creative! However the food environment and dining halls themselves are a different case altogether. Functional; in terms of visual merchandising and display they can often be cold, clinical and devoid of any character – hardly the place you want to sit and enjoy your lunch, right? That’s where we come in….
I arrived at the venue for the food file event; a large catering facility within a corporate headquarters just outside Manchester. We set up a small display within the restaurant, having brought along new ranges of shelving and display fixtures from our BRIX collections, visual merchandising props perfect for the run up to Christmas, plus a few unique ways of displaying food in vintage trays, pans and kilner jars. Essentially everything we feel is needed to inspire a space that attracts punters to eat rather than feel like their entering a chemistry lab.
The catering managers and chefs work their way around the room stopping at various stations to hear about the latest food trends and recipes that they could implement in their own sites. They learn about food concepts and themes like ‘Quirky Bird Chicken’ or gourmet hot dogs complete with relish presented in dog trays (see below….no comment) & street food displays you’d expect to see at a market – right through to finger food & festive deserts and sweet treats.
And in amongst this amazingly delicious and attractive world of food, was me; standing alongside a selection of cake stands and point of sale solutions, discussing the benefits of merchandising and giving out information about the company. Considering that neither myself or the products I brought were edible, our stand was surprisingly busy! Which probably highlights how the contract catering industry is looking for unique and effective merchandising solutions that are not just cost effective, but actually work.
Looking around the room, I didn’t have to look far to see how our retail display products are being put to good use. The location for the event itself was probably the best advertisement I could have ever hoped for. Using our large mid-floor shelving table (RD/KMTL) as a space saving lunch tray dispensary, was not only highly practical but added much needed character to the room.
I spotted the Kingsley Major shelf (RD/KMAJ) used to display crisps, chocolate, fruit and snacks. By removing the top and bottom shelves and angling them within the existing framework, the Kingsley Major was reconfigured to tailor to the needs of a convenience and confectionery store setting. Fantastic and something I had not considered previously.
Our retail development team at WBC have spent many years working on products that transform food & drink retail spaces into extraordinary ones. We attempt to develop seamlessly interchangeable, natural, functional and stylish solutions that work well for retail, but equally for the contract catering settings that need to emulate it.
Before you say, wait, this sounds great but looks expensive. It needn’t be. We stock a huge range of cost-effective options that will hands down showcase your food & drink at its very best, both increase sales and inspiring impulse purchases, with minimal outlay.
Here are a few cost saving solutions that you can try out straight away that won’t break the bank: