Think Spar of old and your heart might not beat any faster, but things have changed since a tie-up with Eat 17 in 2006.
Following a partnership between Eat 17 and AF Blakemore, owner of nearly 300 Spar shops across the UK, the first joint store opened more than a decade ago in east London.
The latest, in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, provides an object lesson in how to combine dining with market-style convenience shopping.
The store ticks many state-of-the-grocery-art boxes, with the now familiar in-store bakery, aged wooden shelving for fresh fruit and vegetables (and in the dining area, which features plants, pendant lights and a communal table), and a blacked-out ceiling with highlight spots for illumination.
All of this is framed by exposed brick walls and faux handwritten signage, which equates to an indoor market hall – except that it happens to be a Spar and restaurant combo.
It’s fair to say nothing here is revolutionary, but the manner in which the various parts have been put together to form the whole make this one a frontrunner in the deli-convenience stakes.