Good-for-you takeaway plugs gap in health-conscious lunch market

Produce Business UK speaks with Wylarbo Chomp, a new sandwich bar in South East London that’s serving up healthy midday meals to a growing customer base, after spotting a gap in the lunchtime cuisine market for good-for-you meals

Wylarbo Chomp is a new, small, family-run sandwich-cum-snack bar in Sydenham, whose enticing menu and colourful shop front is successfully attracting a health-conscious crowd through its doors.

Once inside, customers are greeted with a choice of food that stands out from the majority of British sandwich and snack bars, takeaway restaurants, greasy spoons and delis. And largely this is because the cuisine that’s prepared and served up by owner Domenica Griggs is noticeably healthier than other similar food outlets.

The mother-of-four says: “I don’t cook with oil, I dry-fry food or fry it in water and crisp it up a little bit. And I only use low-fat mayonnaise in my salads.”

She adds: “If I’m making bolognese or chilli con carne, for example, I dry-fry the mince. Customers have actually told me how nice these two dishes of mine are – I’ve had loads of compliments on their full flavour.”

Given Griggs’ focus on offering her customers a range of healthy meal choices, fresh produce naturally features heavily on the menu at Wylarbo Chomp – an undeniably unique name that Griggs lovingly created out of the initials of her close family members.

Wylarbo Chomp’s customers can order, for example, bowls of fresh fruit such as strawberries, grapes, cherries, melon or apples. And unlike much of the fresh-cut or prepared fruit that’s sold in the UK, Griggs’ fruit bowls and boxes are inexpensive – priced at just £1.50 for a bowl of strawberries, for instance.

People also have more than 10 different salads to choose from, including salads featuring Griggs’ signature tuna, egg or chicken “chomp” filling. This filling is a mix of sweet peppers, sweetcorn, onion, a meat or fish ingredient, and reduced-fat mayonnaise.

Jacket potatoes with “chomp” and a choice of other healthy fillings are also on the menu – as are rolls, baguettes and sandwiches. Cooked breakfasts are a customer favourite, but the bacon is grilled rather than fried, the eggs are scrambled, and tomatoes and mushrooms are an important part of the offering.

Gap in the market

Given that the sandwich bar, which opened on January 5 this year, is buzzing every lunchtime (usually between 11.30am and 1.30pm), Griggs’ “good for you” concept is clearly proving popular. While she admits she didn’t have a particular target market in mind when she set up her business, so far she claims her food is appealing to “every single walk of life”.

However, Griggs, who runs her new business with help from her eldest daughters, Charlotte and Yessica, acknowledges there’s definitely a gap in the British market for healthy sandwich/snack bars. “I intend to conquer it,” she smiles, adding that she was inspired to serve up healthy cuisine after experiencing some life-changing events.

Griggs’ mother, Carol, with whom she used to work as a caterer for parties, sadly died of cancer five years ago. “It’s really given me the kick to go forwards with a focus on the healthy side of things. The red stargazer lily on our logo is for her [Carol],” says Griggs.

She recently lost four-and-a-half stone on the Weight Watchers diet plan too, which, she says, spurred her on to eat healthily. “I also got married last year, which encouraged me a bit more,” she continues. “I stuck to Weight Watchers’ ‘fuller for longer’ recipes, which meant that one day it would be [meals with] protein and salads, and the next it would be potato-based [meals] with a load of vegetables.”

Opportunities for healthy catering

The catering business used to cater for big events. “[We did] Christenings, weddings, the whole shebang,” she recalls. “We used to make everything – sandwich plates, salads – what you see on the menu now. But it was always made with low-fat ingredients.”

This tradition of cooking for the masses looks set to continue within the scope of the new business as Wylarbo Chomp has already catered for, and hosted, a seven-year-old’s party for 20 youngsters. The party food featured plenty of fruit and vegetables, including fruit kebabs, healthy platters boasting carrot sticks and cucumbers, and homemade potato wedges.

“We had amazing feedback on the party food. Everyone loved it and enjoyed themselves,” Griggs says, adding that she has also catered for a funeral where the food was similarly popular.

Wylarbo Chomp mainly sources its food supplies, including fresh produce, from Brakes Group, which specialises in supplying fresh food to caterers and was introduced to Griggs through a friend.

She sometimes buys fresh produce for the business from her local grocery shop too. “We have a fruit and veg shop just round the corner that I go to.”

If Griggs could find a supplier that could match Brakes’ reasonable prices and what she describes as its “fantastic,” next day-delivery service, she claims she would consider buying locally-grown fresh produce on a regular basis.

Going forward

This summer, Griggs plans to add wholemeal wraps to her menu and, provided there’s a market for it, she will consider introducing different fruit, vegetable and salad varieties, such as rocket. “If there’s a demand for something I tend to get it in,” she notes. “Like chorizo – people started asking for it so I got it.”

As she develops her menu and gets ready for the summer, Griggs is thoroughly enjoying her new business. “This is the first time I’ve set up my own business. It’s great, I love it. I like seeing people enjoying eating.”

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