Eat on how its ‘single-minded brand view’ can help it connect with customers
Eat is upping competition with food-to-go rivals such as Pret and Itsu with a £13m store rebrand and a focus on digital and social that it claims enhance the in-store experience and will help it spread its quality food message.
Eat has appointed a new agency in Fold7 to develop and execute a “new creative strategy” for the brand, which offers a changing daily food-to-go menu that focuses on hot food. The move comes as Eat looks to expand beyond its urban base in cities such as London with a goal of opening at least 30 stores per year.
Brand director Sarah Doyle told Marketing Week: “To go from 100 to 200 stores over the course of the next three years we need to have a single-minded view of what the brand is about. There are loads of things we do well but we have to be singular about the one thing that will connect us with our customers.”
For Eat this means standing out in the marketplace by matching its store environment with the quality of its food.
“We’ve spent £13m on rebranding our stores over the last two years to be something we’re proud of,” Doyle said. “We’re now in a position where we want to grow the brand.
“We have strong awareness but we’re still only roughly a third the size of Pret,” she added. “We have the opportunity to take it further.”
Competing in a world of fresh food to go
When Eat launched in 1996 it was only competing with Pret and M&S, according to Doyle. Now, however, it is “competing in a whole world of fresh food to go” with the likes of Itsu, Pod, Chop’d and Wasabi coming onto the scene.
“We are in a very competitive and attractive space and we’re in a position where every brand is competing for share,” she said. “More people are eating breakfast out of home and on the go and the lunch opportunity continues to grow.”
She added that while Eat initially felt its food was “so good that it spoke for itself” the brand now realised it needed to better communicate its point of differentiation.
“With all of this competition you need to be telling customers what you’re about and amplifying the messages you have. You need to be part of the conversation.”
The brand will kick off new in-store and outdoor activity in the autumn to target “the specific moment where people are thinking about having lunch or breakfast”.
Using digital to improve the customer experience
Doyle said sampling, social and digital will be key platforms, with the company launching digital menus as part of its rebrand that showcase its changing menu and customer views of its products.
“We invested in digital menu boards to keep pace with the rate of change of our menu,” she added. “If someone tweets about one of our products this allows us to post that on the board and digitally share people’s opinions of our food, encouraging customers to try the product.
“Social doesn’t have geographic borders and we can start to exist in conversations in other areas before we’ve even opened a store.”
The brand has also introduced mobile tills in some of its stores where customers can pay on iPads carried by staff.
“It leads to a more convenient experience,” Doyle said. “When it facilitates a better customer experience we’ll absolutely invest in digital.”
However, she added that the brand has no current plays on developing an app or digital loyalty scheme.
“We develop loyalty based on the quality of our food rather than by finding ways to give people points or discounts,” she concluded.