Post Categories: August 2015

Global Perspectives: In-Store Dining—Asian Retailers Embrace Solutions for All Eating Occasions

aug2013-global-featureImagine grabbing your favorite magazine, ordering up a hot breakfast and freshly-made espresso and sitting down at a dining table to savor a few moments to yourself before heading off to work. Now imagine doing all that not in the comfort of your own home or a fancy café—but right inside your local grocery or convenience store. For many shoppers living in Southeast Asia, this is already a reality.

“The experience of shopping for convenience foods has never been better,” explains Danny Chen, Vice President of International for Interactions. “The ‘Eat-in’ or ‘To-Go Ready-To-Eat’ concept creates a very appealing alternative for consumers to enjoy shopping and tasting nice meals very easily and affordably. It fits the needs of the lifestyle that consumers are trending to.”

Historically, consumers in many Asian-Pacific countries have preferred more traditional home-cooked meals. But in the last decade, rising income levels and penetration of western-format retail chains have spurred demand for ready-to-eat and convenience meals. In response, many retailers have increased their frozen, deli fresh, takeaway and made-to-order options—even, as the scenario above describes, adding in-store dining facilities.

“The offerings in Japan, Taiwan and Korea are not just what we typically see in the U.S. with hot dogs, ham and cheese sandwiches or hamburgers,” says Chen. “Instead, you can expect to see items such as fried pork cutlets with curry over rice, seaweed noodle soup, spicy tofu over rice, salads, sushi, pasta and chilled desserts, like pudding and cheesecake.”

Retailers leading the way in this growing ready-to-eat market include 7-Eleven and FamilyMart, two of the largest convenience store chains in Southeast Asia. Both began increasing their offerings of fresh, ready-made meals several years ago. Between 2008 and 2013, 7-Eleven reported sales of ready-to-eat meals and takeaway salads jumped by 40-50 percent, while FamilyMart reported a 20 percent increase in annual sales over each of those years.

Both retailers continue to expand and refine their ready-to-eat and convenience meal options today. For example, earlier this year, 7-Eleven expanded its “7 Café” offerings, meant to compete with quick-service coffee chains like Starbucks, to include iced coffee and lattes. FamilyMart also launched a new line of freshly-made coffee drinks and revamped many of its ready-to-eat private label meals to improve quality and appearance.

More traditional grocery retailers are also getting into the ready-to-eat game. For example, Carrefour, an international supermarket chain, recently opened several new stores in China that combine parts of traditional grocery store with additional convenience services like quick service meals and dining facilities.

It is interesting to note that while prepared meal solutions are also a favorite of American shoppers, in-store dining currently only makes up a tiny fraction of total grocery store sales in the U.S. Fresh, ready-to-eat meals are even less common in convenience stores. But it’s a trend that has been increasing in the last few years as consumers spend less on eating out at more traditional restaurants.

“It takes a lot of work for retailers—especially convenience stores—to source all the needed ingredients, ensure the consistent production of flavor profiles and manage farm-to-table quality control. But once retailers establish the right supplier chains, there are many possibilities to bring little surprises and entertainment to shoppers,” concludes Chen.

To learn about international business opportunities with Interactions, contact Danny Chen, Vice President of International, at