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The rollout includes the expansion of bays dedicated to Sainsbury’s Kitchen Deli range. Source: Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s has begun trialling three new premium self-serve concepts as it explores new ways to fill space vacated by the closure of its manned deli counters following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under one part of the trial – which has begun in a small number of stores, including its Kensington superstore in London – Sainsbury’s has introduced a new cheese counter format called ‘Cheeseboard’, which will stock its speciality cheeses. In some stores the concept has been combined with a new chilled ‘Charcuterie’ section, dedicated to showcase Sainsbury’s range of continental meats.

The Grocer understands that the new destination formats will largely stock products from Sainsbury’s existing range of cheese and charcuterie, although new “complimentary” products are being considered if customers react well to the propositions.

The new concepts come alongside the introduction of a new expanded proposition dedicated to Sainsbury’s recently launched fresh own-label range Kitchen Deli.

The launch, in August, saw the introduction of smaller standalone fixtures stocking the food to go line in about 100 stores, many located near to store entrances.

Under the second stage of the rollout, the fixtures have been expanded into larger counters, some of which are located along the back wall of supermarkets. Sainsbury’s has not yet said if the initial 13-strong range – which includes wraps, salads and ready meals – has been expanded as a result.

Sainsbury’s did not offer a comment when approached by The Grocer.

When, in November 2020, Sainsbury’s originally announced plans to shutter all of its manned fish and deli counters following their closure during the pandemic, CEO Simon Roberts said the decision had been made due to “reduced consumer demand”. Shutting the counters permanently would make stores easier to run, and reduce food waste, he suggested.

The expansion of self-serve areas is the latest iteration of Sainsbury’s ongoing store modernisation efforts, amid a wider reconsolidation of its logistics network aimed at improving efficiency, while at the same time improving its customer offer in stores.

Over the past couple of years, it has seen the retailer look to cut stand-alone Argos stores and concessions, in favour of click & collect points. It has also closed 200 in-house cafés since March 2022, in favour of third party partnerships with Starbucks and more recently Greggs, which opened its first standalone café in a Sainsbury’s store in October.

That’s alongside an expansion of its partnership with The Boparan Restaurant Group to open Restaurant Hubs in larger format stores. The retailer has also been working to replace the space vacated by the closure of all 237 Lloyds Pharmacy outlets within its stores in July.