In December 2013 the second outlet of the Dutch retailer Bilder & De Clercq (B&DC) was opened in Amsterdam. It underlines the success of this innovative meal solutions concept, only ten months after the first store started trading.
In February 2013 founders Diederik van Gelder and Rogier Leopold opened their first store, also in Amsterdam. The location is right on the corner of two streets: the Bilderdijkstraat and the De Clercqstraat. Hence the name of this new venture. The second store, which was opened last December 9, is in a different neighbourhood in the city centre of Amsterdam. By bicycle it takes some ten minutes to travel from one store to the other.
Bilder & De Clercq doesn’t offer products that are rationally stacked on shelves like most traditional supermarkets and neighbourhood stores. It offers meal solutions. Shoppers see fourteen tables, each of them dedicated to one meal. Over each table there is an image showing the prepared meal and on the table shoppers find the recipe with information about the ingredients needed to prepare a dinner for two. All ingredients for the meal are on the table, and on the side fresh components can be found in little refrigerators.
Every day customers at B&DC can choose a meal to conveniently prepare at home, out of fourteen options. And every Thursday three meals are replaced by three new suggestions, created by two chefs who work for B&DC on a freelance basis. They choose meals using fresh ingredients that are seasonable and therefore available in large quantities, preferably by local suppliers.
The key message B&DC wants to convey is that city centre dwellers lead busy lives, are time poor but nevertheless want good and healthy food. For this they seek inspiration and help, but that is essentially lacking at regular supermarkets. “It struck me that I got no support at all in the supermarket during my daily struggle to find an answer to the question ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ ”, says Rogier Leopold. “My companion Diederik van Gelder had the same feeling, so we both decided to rethink the process of selling food, especially to people living in city centres. These people don’t have the space to store a weekly amount of food and buy their food in a day to day basis, on a location close to where they work or live.”
Both Leopold and Van Gelder were working in the media business and had no connection to food retail. “We were not hindered by any knowledge on selling food”, Leopold says jokingly. “It took us two years of preparation before our first store was opened and during these two years we spoke to lots of people about our plan to create an inspirational and innovative way to reinvent the food store.”
Via these discussions Leopold and Van Gelder found the investors they needed to bring their ideas to live. And they spoke to people who could support them in gradually shaping their rough ideas into a viable store concept with a solid business plan. Leopold does not disclose the names of the investors, who are all private persons and no representatives of Dutch food retailers. An important supporter is Dick Schaap, a wholesaler of fruit and vegetables located in Monnickendam, some twenty kilometres north of Amsterdam.
“This company helps us in buying ingredients and repacking products in the right amounts and sizes needed to prepare the meal”, says Leopold. “Shoppers buy the exact amounts needed, so our concept prevents food waste. We present the ingredients in the right portions but we reduce the use of packaging material. You can take the amount of items you need. And if you still have certain ingredients at home, like rice, vegetables or herbs, you don’t take them. In that case the corresponding amount is deducted from the bill at the checkout.”
Prices of the meals vary from three euro to maximum ten euro per person. On average the price level is six to seven euro per person. The meals account for some eighty per cent of sales. Besides customers can also buy drinks, additional food items and non food products related to food preparation or consumption. As most people shop for their daily meal after 4 p.m., the new store also features fresh sandwiches for lunchtime and a coffee bar. To improve traffic before the late afternoon.
Sales figures are not disclosed, but the fact that the second store was opened so quickly, is an indication of the success of this city centre concept. Also an indication is the customer card B&DC issues since last year’s summer. Hundreds of customers got this prepaid card which gives them five per cent extra value when uploading the card. “And ten per cent whan they upload the card for the first time”, says Leopold. “It’sgood for our liquidity, as we receive the money upfront. But most of all it’s a means to reward our regular shoppers.”
Both Bilder & De Clercq stores share the same features:
• some 200 square metres of selling space
• 3 checkouts
• 14 meals priced at 6 to 7 euro per person on average
• opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
• Personnel works on hourly basis; five people at busy times (e.g. in the weekend) and two employees when it’s less busy (e.g. on Monday morning).
• All shoppers shop by baskets and travel to the store either by foot or by bicycle.
This article was previously published in the French trade publication Linéaires