Battle for non-traditional trading hours intensifies

By Mark Wingett

- Last updated on GMT

Coffee shop Grind & Co turns into a cocktail bar at night.
Coffee shop Grind & Co turns into a cocktail bar at night.

Related tags Fast food

The battle for non-traditional trading hours among fast food, café, pub and restaurant operators is set to intensify during the coming year as more and more brands look to stretch their offer.

Within a month of JD Wetherspoon announcing plans to lower its coffee and breakfast prices in an attempt to triple sales across both categories in the next three years, Pret A Manger has begun​ the trial of a new evening format.

Called Good Evenings and launching at its branch in London’s The Strand, diners are greeted at the door, presented with a menu and shown to a table. Customers order and pay at the till as usual, but their meals are served to them at the table on specially designed crockery. The menu is also available for take away orders.

Dishes include small plates, salads, toasties, soups, hot dishes and desserts, including macaroni cheese and quinoa rice pots, with the menu also featuring top-selling Pret food served in new ways. There is also a drinks selection of French red and white wines, prosecco and British craft beers.

“Customers have been asking for some time about an early evening menu, so it seemed a logical step to give the concept a try,” says Nick Sandler, Pret creative chef. “We already have a significant number of shops that trade until late at night, so this makes sense for us,” adds the group’s marketing director Mark Palmer.

The trial comes weeks after rival Starbucks launched its first evening site​ in the UK at Stansted airport. The Starbucks Evenings programme offers hot and cold meals, including truffled mac ’n’ cheese and braised British beef, as well as wines and beers. If successful, it will be rolled out to some of its other UK stores. 

In the US, McDonald’s has started trialling all-day breakfast as it continues to explore ways to evolve its offer. While the fast-food giant hasn’t announced any plans to do the same in the UK, there is a strong likelihood it will consider a similar approach over here if the move is a success.

Grind & Co, which operates Soho Grind, Holborn Grind and London Grind in London Bridge, is also extending the reach of its new-wave coffee shops. A bona fide coffee house by day, each Grind turns into a cocktail venue by night to compete within the local bar scene. In addition, London Grind serves a more extensive food menu, including: small plates of seabass carpaccio; and scallops, celeriac and crispy quinoa; as well as more substantial mains of cod, purple-sprouting broccoli and spinach; and spatchcock chicken, cavolo nero and potatoes.

Other breakfast and lunchtime brands have already made incursions into the late-night sector. Last year, Patisserie Valerie launched a brasserie arm that trades into the evening and Paul UK transformed its Covent Garden site into Le Restaurant de Paul. The restaurant serves traditional French dishes for lunch and dinner and pitches itself directly against more established brands in the French sector, such as Brasserie Blanc. 

This article first appeared in the May issue of Restaurant magazine. Subscribe here​ or read the digital edition here​.

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