A new joint venture, Maido Sushi, is targeting convenience stores and supermarkets to roll out high-quality fresh sushi concessions.
Thornton’s Budgens in Belsize Park, north west London, was the first to open a Maido concession five weeks ago, operated by Atari-Ya, Maido’s joint-venture partner.
Atari-Ya is a group of restaurants and shops in London which focuses on “finest quality” freshly prepared sushi and sashimi, and which will operate the in-store concessions.
Jonathan Green, one of five partners of Maido Sushi, said the stores had to be in “the right location” which, “in an ideal world”, would be like Thornton’s Budgens which was “the right area with the right demographic and there’s got to be the demand for it”.
Green said the concept was “high-quality sushi at fair value” that appealed to a wider audience. He said sales in the first month through Thornton’s Budgens had been 10 times more than the store’s previous pre-packaged, factory-manufactured offering.
“If we found a similar kind of setup elsewhere then we’d definitely be keen to do it. We are conscious that we don’t want to compromise on quality so we would do something gradually.”
Andrew Thornton, Thornton’s Budgens owner, who is now looking to add “a really premium, upmarket” coffee concession to join its flowers, butchery, juice and sushi concessions, said: “Some things we can do really well ourselves like fish and cheese but other things like sushi and juice we decided we are much better off to get an expert.
“People who are real coffee drinkers wouldn’t be seen dead with a Costa or Starbucks in their hand. They are mass market brands.”
Thornton said he was “thrilled” so far with the sushi operation. “The response from customers is fantastic.” It plans to develop the offer further to provide sushi platters for people entertaining.
“Someone will make the sushi fresh for you from nine in the morning to seven in the evening and it’s available to grab and go all the time. Lots of people grab and go but we are encouraging people who can spend the few extra minutes to get it made fresh.”
He said comparing the store’s previous sushi offer to the new one was “like comparing a cheap £2.50 chicken from Asda to one of our finest free-range organic chickens that we sell from local farms”.
He stressed the importance of concessions to independents “because you are giving people multiple reasons to visit your store and reducing the need for them to go elsewhere”.
Spar UK, which has more than 1,800 food and drink “franchise partnerships”, including several coffee brands, Subway and Greggs, see them as a way of enhancing the overall offer.
Ian Taylor, Spark UK retail director, said: “It can help increase footfall and attract new customers to our stores who may not have come in otherwise. They also bring discipline, a consistent offer and high standards.”