Asda to offer drive-through meals at stores

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Asda is planning to introduce drive-through take-away diners at some of its stores later this year. It will be the first time the concept has been tried by a UK supermarket, though similar ideas exist in the US. Nigel Cope, City Correspondent, checks it out.

Asda's "Eat in-Eat out" concept will offer a range of meals such as Indian, Chinese, Tex-Mex. Pizza and fish and chips that can either be eaten in the stores' dining area or taken away.

Asda feels that as supermarket opening hours become longer and longer, customers will be increasingly interested in either eating at the supermarket or picking up a meal on the way out.

The idea is already established in the US where a number of supermarkets have been offering "drive-thru" meals for some time.

Asda is planning to introduce the idea at two of its stores later this year. It is thought that one trial will start in a new store in July with another planned in an existing outlet in October.

The company feels it has an advantage over other supermarkets with the idea as its stores are larger and can accommodate a drive-through area.

The plan is part of a series of new initiatives being planned by Asda. It is considering introducing mezzanine levels in some of its stores where it will offer some of its non-food ranges, such as the George label of clothing, and its music and video range.

It would be an innovative move as supermarkets are usually based on just one level.

The company is also interested in launching its own television channel. It has held talks with Cable & Wireless and others about the possibility of an Asda channel that would sell its non-food ranges such as clothing, music and video and homewares. The channel could be similar to QVC, the home shopping channel where products are demonstrated on air while viewers ring in and pay by credit card.

Asda has steered clear of electronic media such as the internet so far because it does not feel the technology suits its mass market audience.

However, it feels that the impending launch of digital television later this year will bring interactive media to the masses.

Though the company is unlikely to be an early entrant to the market, it is interested in having a presence there when the new medium has settled down and gained acceptance.