Coles chief Steven Cain in the supermarket chain’s Tooronga Village store’s new pre-prepared meals area. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
Coles chief Steven Cain in the supermarket chain’s Tooronga Village store’s new pre-prepared meals area. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

Coles set to offer sit-down dining

IN THE supermarket industry, it's known as a "grocerant".

And it's the latest weapon being wielded by Coles as it seeks to gain an edge in the supermarket wars.

Coles has launched its first supermarket with an internal food hall providing sit-down dining options for shoppers - a grocery store and restaurant in one - in Melbourne.

The refurbished store is at the Tooronga Village shopping centre in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

Shoppers can now tuck into a sandwich or food bowl from trendy food chain Earl Canteen or dip into freshly made California rolls from Sushi Sushi as they grab their milk and bread.

A seating area provides a place to stop and eat complete with free wi-fi and mobile phone charging stations.

The store also boasts Coles' biggest range of convenience food options - more than 450 products including ready-to-go breakfasts, pre-cut fruit and veg and ready-made meals.

"Our new food hall concept is all about making life easier for our customers by solving the problem of what to eat - for everyone, any time of the day," Coles convenience head Louis Eggar said.

"We're excited to work with the best in the business for premium-quality, quick and easy meal solutions that appeal to our urban and time-poor customers in Hawthorn East and surrounds."

 

A Coles cafeteria in 1951.
A Coles cafeteria in 1951.

 

So-called grocerants - supermarkets that blend up-market food hall concepts with their offering - are being rolled out in growing numbers across Europe and the US.

US grocer Whole Foods allows shoppers to tuck into pizza and sushi from nationally recognised chefs and restaurants, while Waitrose in Britain has pushed heavily into the convenience space over the past decade.

Coles plans to roll out more food halls but has not released numbers.

Tooronga Village is beside its headquarters, allowing executives to keep a close eye on progress.

The food outlets within the supermarket operate under a revenue-sharing model rather than Coles renting out its floor space.

 

A Coles cafeteria serves hot food in 1985.
A Coles cafeteria serves hot food in 1985.

Both Coles and Woolworths view convenience - serving the needs of time-poor shoppers who want to pick up a quick but healthy meal or have it delivered - as a key growth plank.

The introduction of a food hall at Coles harks back to an earlier age when Coles variety stores commonly boasted cafeterias.

In Bourke St Mall, the Coles variety store now occupied by David Jones ran a cafeteria ­serving up soups, cold meats and salads with seating for 1000 diners.

Melbourne-based Earl Canteen has won a dedicated following for its freshly made sandwiches and food bowls using locally sourced ingredients.

It operates eight stores across Melbourne with the bulk located in the city.

"We think this concept is a game-changer - as is excellent coffee inside a supermarket," co-founder Jackie Middleton said.

"We're not sure which Melburnians will love more."

john.dagge@news.com.au