"As a business we describe ourselves as food travel experts; it’s our point of difference. We really want to understand how food and travel work together and get through to people who are on the move, who have different needs," says MacDavid.
SSP conducted research using cameras all around train stations, accompanied by interviews, and tracked what people said versus what they did. "It’s very clear the level of stress a consumer has when they get to a train station," he says. "From that we worked at different ways of making the whole process simpler. Fundamentally we realised that people are set in their ways. Over a billion people use the rail network a year. So there are a lot of potential customers out there. We want them to break some of their habits."
One of the primary emphases is on a really fast transaction. Every brand has a speed of service target time, from joining the queue to leaving it. Mystery shoppers real customers recruited by Retail Eyes go to each site twice a month; if staff achieve two very good scores, then the whole team is paid 50p an hour extra for that month.
"Better service equals better pay," he says. "We’ve simplified menu boards and we’ve looked at staffing structures to make sure we have the right amount of people at the right times of day to ensure we get quick service."