LONDON – Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer, announced plans to close meat, fish and hot deli counters at 317 stores. The closures are part of a larger restructuring of the retail chain’s core business.

“Customer shopping behavior has changed considerably over recent years which has led to a decrease in the number of customers using counters on a regular basis in some of our stores,” said Jason Tarry, chief executive officer of Tesco UK and Ireland. “This has made it necessary to review the relevance of each counter within our stores.

“In 279 stores where we see local customer demand for meat, fish or hot deli counters, we will continue to offer these counter services,” Tarry said. “However, in 317 stores where we see the lowest demand, we will close these counters and repurpose the space to better reflect our customers’ needs.”

There will be no redundancies related to the counter service changes, Tesco said. Affected employees will be offered alternative roles.

The company attributed the decision to discontinue counter service at some stores to consumers shopping differently. But Tesco previously touted that in “Veganuary” sales have skyrocketed thanks to the launch of a new plant-based Wicked Kitchen Meal Deal offering consumers a main dish for two, a side and a dessert for £8.

Tesco said the vegan meal deal helped demand for its Wicked Kitchen plant-based range more than double during January. Wicked Kitchen was the first plant-based line to launch in partnership with a UK supermarket in 2018.

“In the last year we have concentrated on making the best quality plant-based food even more accessible for shoppers by lowering prices,” said Derek Sarno, head of plant-based innovation at Tesco. “The Wicked Kitchen Meal Deal, which is an amazing offer for folks that want to try plant-based for the first time, launched this Veganuary and is testament to that.

“The amount of choice these days is mouth-watering and almost every category within supermarkets now has plant-based options, making it easier than ever for those considering or switching to embracing more Meat-Free days of the week,” Sarno added. “We have introduced more brilliant meat-free alternatives to classic favorites such as our Moq au Vin version of Coq au Vin, a vegan BLT sandwich, a Kickin’ Cauli Katsu Curry and even our non-dairy Wicked Tiramisu.”

GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, found that 62% of people surveyed were actively trying to reduce red meat consumption, or eat it in moderation, and 65% reporting the same for dairy.

“People will increasingly base their choice of retailer on the availability of plant-based products, with the younger generations leading the trend,” said Ana Purcaroiu, senior consumer analyst at GlobalData. “GlobalData’s survey also revealed that 21% of UK millennials claim that the availability of special dietary products is the most influential factor when deciding where to do their grocery shopping.”

Tesco also said the retailer would cease operating stores under the Jack’s brand which Tesco launched in 2018 as a low-cost operating model. Of the 13 Jack’s stores, six will convert to Tesco superstores, with the remaining seven Jack’s stores to close in the coming months.

And the company will transition its overnight stock replenishment to daytime hours putting 1,600 jobs at risk.