What sausage rolls can teach you about improving your customer experience and evolving your business

Options for dining out or buying food on-the-go used to be few and far between. Unless you lived in a big town or city, the pickings were slim and options were often at polar ends of the spectrum e.g. the posh French bistro vs. the local chippy, greasy spoon café or sandwich van.

If, like some of us, you grew up around Basingstoke, you’ll wonder how we ever coped without the plethora of food outlets and restaurants we enjoy today.

No matter where you live, chances are that these days you eat your breakfast, lunch and/or dinner away from home far more often than you once did. Many people will buy at least one of these meals a day rather than making it themselves.


Dining out has become a much more regular part of most people’s lives – and it’s no longer simply about sustenance or celebration; it’s about an experience. Nifty restaurant locater and review apps like OpenTable and TripAdvisor, quick and easy online booking, and the ubiquity of social media sites like Instagram have radically changed the way we eat out today.

As for packed lunch alternatives, from poké to bao, a new food trend pops up every day – with a hashtag for dessert. A quick search on Instagram will whip up 340 million posts tagged under #food. Users follow their eyes and not just their noses in the direction of a massive variety of eateries serving ‘Instagrammable’ food (even better if they’re places with the kind of artfully cool décor that’s just begging to backdrop your daily selfie).

Changing tastes

Food has been a central indicator of cultural trends for centuries because how we eat says a great deal about how we live. As a marketing agency in Basingstoke that helps SMEs in Hampshire to improve their customer experience, we’re always taking a step back to consider how the lives of consumers influence their buying behaviour because a holistic understanding of that is the keystone to creating campaigns that impact and resonate.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to be familiar with one brand that’s certainly satiating Britain’s appetite…

Greggs’ golden turnover

Baking family favourites since the 1950s, Greggs now sells 2.5m sausage rolls a week and has seen a 25% rise in profits recently. In contrast to many shops on the high street that are closing, it seems like you’re never more than a stone’s throw from yet another Greggs.  It now has a bigger UK presence than McDonald’s and Starbucks with 1,698 stores nationwide.

Roger Whiteside, formerly of Ocado and Marks & Spencer, was hired as CEO in 2013 and repositioned the bakery as a “food-on-the-go” brand rather than a “take-home” bakery. Commenting on the recent boom in business in The Guardian, he said:

“We realised we weren’t going to win the battle against the supermarkets for the take-home baked goods. Instead, we had to deploy our bakery skills to sell our products for instant consumption. Everybody pops into Greggs for something at some point, but often that’s because they’re treating themselves. What we’re saying is we want to be there for you, for breakfast, lunch and snacking.”

With a heritage in traditional fare, Greggs could’ve just rested on their laurels and continued to position themselves as a bakery. But they had to face the fact that most people in 2019 don’t visit a bakery that often. However, many do look for a tasty lunch or snack to keep them going through their busy day. Gregg’s success has been a result of taking an honest look at what their customers actually want these days and how they buy – and that means sandwiches, soups and salads rather than just loaves and cakes. Healthier options now make up 10% of their profits.

A less than pukka time for others

That same sweet smell of success hasn’t been wafting from the door of the kitchens in branches of Jamie Oliver’s eponymous restaurant chain recently.

Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group – which comprised 23 Jamie’s Italian venues and London’s Fifteen and Barbecoa – went into administration this spring, despite branch closures, the loss of 600 staff, a £13m cash injection from Jamie and a £37m loan from HSBC.

The so-called casual dining crisis has also hit Byron, Prezzo, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and Carluccio’s, who are all in company rescue schemes. Accountants UHY Hacker Young reported in 2018 that 37 of Britain’s top 100 restaurant groups were making a loss, with pre-tax profits down 89% on the first quarter of 2017.

So, what’s to blame? Rising rents, increasing rates, the cost of supplies, utility hikes, and increases in the national living wage and all been cited as reasons why once-popular restaurant chains have seen their custom go off the boil. But could there be some other factors at play?

Getting the recipe right

At the start of this blog we talked about the hunger among diners for an experience. Often, that experience needs to satisfy not only practical drivers like accessibility, choice and convenience – as Greggs has proven – but something aspirational, fresh and exciting that you can’t wait to tell your friends about.

Perhaps that’s why Brits are losing their appetite for the ‘same old, same old’ that many chains represent. Throw in poorly trained and demotivated staff, lower quality ingredients, and the tired, homogeneous décor that are often the hallmarks of a chain restaurant and you’re in danger of having an eatery that people flock online to complain about – rather than tagging you in their perfectly-curated Instagram feed.

Back in 2008, the Times restaurant critic, Giles Coren, declared Jamie’s Italian “streets ahead of any Italian chain”. By 2015, it had the worst average ratings on Google Reviews of any comparable chain of UK restaurants. This is a stark reminder that – no matter how successful your business is – you must keep reviewing what, why, how, where and when your customers buy and invest in adapting your offering to meet that changing need. The proof is in the pastry.

Not sure if your marketing is reaching the right audience, in the right way, at the right time? Brevity is a marketing agency in Hampshire that can help you improve your customer experience so you get a better ROI from your marketing campaigns – and your business thrives. Call us on 01256 536000 or email