Independent retailers contacted by The Grocer this week are divided as to how important it is to offer customers more than just standard groceries.

Half the retailers we approached either have a hot food counter or want one, according to the survey, mainly because they believe it increases trade during the key breakfast and lunchtime periods and gives them a point of difference.

“Having a hot food counter means we can compete with the sandwich bars and cafés nearby,” says one retailer.

“Hot food is a good attraction for us. People come in for a sausage roll but often buy a drink as well,” says another.

However, 50% of retailers do not feel hot food is a very important part of their store's offering. “People don't come to us to eat hot food,” says one. “We focus more on chilled food such as sandwiches and salads because that's what our customers tend to be interested in.”

Another adds: “We are a small store so we don't really have the space for a hot food counter. I also don't want to have to deal with running one and having to keep it clean.”

Retailers are less keen on offering additional services, such as travel cards, mobile phone top-ups, cash machines and fax services.

Some 75% of retailers don't believe these services add to their offering.

“We tried a fax service for a while but people don't use faxes much these days,” says one retailer, “and this has made us think twice about offering other stuff.”

Retailers in busy cities, and particularly in London, are more willing to sell travel cards and provide Oyster card top-ups because it increased footfall through their stores in the mornings, when customers were also likely to buy a newspaper and a snack.

However, 60% are unsure whether to increase the services they offer.

“If there were demand for more services we would consider them but it is difficult to know what will make money and what our customers really want,” says one.