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The light lunch opportunity

05 December 2007
The light lunch opportunity

As demand for fresh, lighter options at lunchtime increase, Tony Horton, chief executive of Tricon Foodservice Consultants, asks why caterers aren't embracing this change

The concept of a New York deli conjures up many images in people's minds, often prompted by TV shows, movies and the occasional trip to the Big Apple.

Despite these varying and personal perceptions, I am sure we can easily agree on a number of key elements: a wide range of smells, flavours and tastes of fresh food rapid service and freshly prepared orders from a mind-boggling list of ingredients, accompaniments and options.

In UK business and industry contracts today there is little evidence of efforts to provide such a service, and no clear idea of how it should be done. One person's deli is another's sandwich bar.

But consumers' tastes are changing. Demand for fresh, lighter food served quickly at lunchtime is rising, in marked contrast to the traditional lunch-hour fare comprising meat and two veg of just five years ago.

Employers have changed their needs, too. They now have clear objectives concerning reduced subsidies, occupying less space and minimising capital expenditure, which, in many respects, are in step with the consumer's changing needs.

In effect, the single solution to meet both the supply and demand sides is to provide a version of the New York deli, adapted, of course, to meet the particular vagaries of a specific site.

I believe a paradigm shift in thinking is required. Pret A Manger demonstrated such a shift in the 1980s by serving fast, freshly made, high-quality sandwiches in a fraction of the space that was considered to be the norm at the time.

London deli-café operator Benugo has made giant leaps in the right direction and is being rightly sought out by employers and public venues to meet their deli needs.

Hot and cold deli bars where customers choose from a wide range of individual ingredients for their meal will have a major role to play but, in my view, the major contractors have not yet recognised this.

There has not been a successful roll-out of a tried-and-tested concept nor even the research and development to meet today's requirements, let alone those of the future.

The New York deli model of allowing customers to choose from a wide range of ingredients and options could be adopted by business and industry caterers in the UK

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