Via Carluccio’s, Tottenham Court Road

As February draws to a close and the weather remains quite frosty in London, there’s nothing more warming on a cold day than hot pasta, or a proper Italian toasted ciabatta. However, amongst the London foodservice market it is quite hard to come across traditional Italian food to-go. Yes you can go to a sandwich shop or fast food chain and get something to eat which has some Italian relevance, such as a Spicy Italian from Subway but it isn’t really Italian food is it?

Fortunately, my prayers look to have been answered with the brand new opening of Via Carluccio’s in Tottenham Court Road. With its grand opening today, the popular restaurant chain aims to bring restaurant quality Italian food to those eating on the go.

Via Carluccio’s is a quick service variation of the brand, trading from 7am to early morning commuters, right through to the early evening to capture the home rush trade. With 8 internal and 10 external seats, Via Carluccio’s certainly reflects the same small interior found in other Fast Casual units across the Capital.

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Sandwiched (excuse the pun) in between Gregg’s and EAT, already well established food to-go Operators, Via Carluccio’s is easily recognisable from its bold blue frontage which is the key to relating this to its sister restaurant format, Carluccio’s. Approaching the unit from the front there is a small external seating area, surrounded by branded balustrades. The unit frontage, protected by glass, is simple and allows you to see into the small 1,500 ft2 unit.

Inside, the unit can be divided into three sections, pre-packed grab-and-go, freshly prepared grab-and-go and seating. The fridge on the right of the entrance features a range of pre-made paninis, ciabattas and salads, which are all priced appropriately between £3.25-£5.25. The front counter, back up by over-head digital signage and operated by 6 staff members, had a fresh pasta display at the front. Here, guests can make a selection out of 4 different pasta boxes, freshly prepared in front of them.

The food itself was really good. I had a chicken skewer salad box, crudités carrot side with broad bean dip, a vanilla panna cotta and a Limonata drink. It came to about £10.00 in total, which feels very expensive for lunch… although I have to say the quality was a cut above the competition. It was busy during my visit, with business people and tourists all flocking to grab a piece of Carluccio’s latest offer. I must say that with such a small unit, it did become busy and even a little claustrophobic during the busy period but this was probably to be expected, given that it was lunch on launch day.

There were a few issues I found during my visit, which were very minor but these included no contactless payment, which is becoming increasingly popular and ‘key’ in the foodservice industry. There were also no branded bags available, which decreases the brand appearance external to the unit, something I feel was looked over in the preparations for opening.

With the emerging trend of Fast Casual becoming increasingly popular, we are not surprised to see that Carluccio’s have taken this step toward a food-to-go format. This is not the first of it’s kind, as we have seen previously in our Giraffe Kiosk  blog – http://ow.ly/YNy8K  – it is a popular choice for restaurant operators to expand their offer outside of their typical trading hours and demographics…a trend that we are seeing more and more of.

The pricing is very high for a grab-and-go product especially considering it’s location near Gregg’s and EAT. You can get a similar product next door for a lot less money, however, you do sacrifice product quality. This will make choosing location key, targeting areas with people with money to spend and as such, it will be interesting to see if this format will be rolled out across London, or other locations and it is certainly something I could imagine working very well in a Shopping Centre, adding to the already expanding Fast Casual scene.

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