Waitrose has revealed plans to increase its focus on food service counters just days after rival Sainsbury’s closed all of its equivalent meat, fish and deli areas.

The upmarket grocer will relaunch its fish and meat counter ranges on Waitrose.com at the beginning of next year and has committed to the long-term future of counters in its stores. 

Waitrose said that, following the Sainsbury’s closures announced last week, it wanted to “reassure” its suppliers and customers about its own fresh food counters.   

Sainsbury’s warned last week that 3,500 jobs would go across the group amid plans to shutter all of its meat, fish and deli counters, as well as 420 standalone Argos stores. 

Tesco has also closed dozens of in-store counters, claiming the move is reflective of the changing ways in which its customers are now shopping in their supermarkets.

Morrisons, by contrast, has dialled up its Market Street proposition, and Waitrose has now committed to doing likewise with its fresh food counters. 

Waitrose has already launched 30 new lines across its counters since April and a number of other products and promotions will be launched ahead of Christmas.   

The grocer said its counters allow it to bring “skills, knowledge and expertise” into its supermarkets to “improve customer experience”.

Waitrose director of category proposition Jackie Wharton said: “Waitrose is renowned for its service counters and they remain a key reason why many people shop with us. 

“Having tripled our slot capacity to over 200,000 orders a week, and in light of increased demand for online this year, there is now a huge opportunity for us to offer our counter range on Waitrose.com and we’re excited to relaunch it at the beginning of next year.”

Unlike many of its grocery rivals, Waitrose kept the majority of its counters open during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wharton said they helped to “sustain many of our smallest British suppliers, who otherwise would not have had a route to market this year”.