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Justin Tunstall, retail consultant, shares his cheese selling experience

“Board, not bored”

Almost all cheesemongers can assemble a cheese board in our sleep. Variety of flavour, texture, colour and milk type help create a fascinating representation of the diversity of cheesemaking. We pluck suggestions from our knowledge of our stock and its condition, creating an impressive finale to dinner parties, themed by almost any other criteria

“Allow me to introduce myself”

We stood by the board in the restaurant, which requested “Please wait here to be seated”. Eventually a waiter came up (several had passed us by) and said: “You alright there?” Clearly, we were not, as service was unlikely to be as forthcoming as the easel. Nonetheless, meekly, I asked for a table

“Diminishing returns”

There’s an adage that it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than to convert a new one. It is in our best interests that we ensure that once a prospect becomes ours, they stay ours – through thick and thin

“Shrink to fit”

Recently I was captivated by the story of 11 blocks and truckles of cheese that had been stolen in a heist at a cheese show. What was to be the fate of the prize-winning cheeses? Served at an unscrupulous gangster’s party, trumpeted as a “Supreme Champion”, while stolen grand masters looked down on the occasion? I was thinking of a Ernst Stavros Blofeld/Dr Evil type lair. Or might the 220kg of cheese be anonymised, stripped of all provenance and sold as commodity bulk cheddar via shady markets for a knock down price, even lower than the cost of the milk? Apparently the cheeses were all recovered within 24 hours, their intended fate unknown

“A cut above?”

Although I recognise that it enables advances in productivity, I loathe the thought of time and motion inspectors using a stopwatch for each and every process in the workplace

“Enlisting with the Territorials”

When I opened my shop, my first cheese order from the wholesalers included solid examples of those Territorials that originally hailed from outside our immediate area – Martell’s Double Gloucester, Mrs A’s, Mrs K’s, Sparkenhoe and Special Reserve Wensleydale. Sizeable rounds of cheese looked good in the chiller, but after a week, we’d barely made a dent into them, and I certainly hadn’t recouped much of the couple of hundred quid that I’d invested. I’d set out to provide a showcase for the very best cheeses that Britain could produce, but had ended up with an unacceptable level of wastage

“The vinyl is final and the curd is the word”

Last weekend I was at a conference in a faraway city; one that I hadn’t visited in over 20 years. With some time off on Saturday afternoon, I decided to explore. I’d ‘done’ the famous sights on previous visits, so I resolved to look at some shops. My diary noted that it was both Record Store Day (RSD2017) and Raw Milk Appreciation Day, so I thought that mixing and matching record shops and delis could be especially rewarding

“Avoiding the ‘b’ word”

As a teenager in the early 1970s, prior to my first ‘dinner party’, parental advice didn’t just cover which cutlery to use. I was also briefed to avoid discussion of politics, religion or money. Perhaps that’s why I became a music, and later, a cheese bore. Of course this advice was completely misplaced when I became a student and such subjects were the very stuff of late night debate, over Nescafé and Gingernuts

“Cobweb corner”

There’s usually a little bit of a shop that makes the owner wince – not for reasons of cleanliness, I trust, but because the offering has become stale. It shouldn’t mean your cheese stocks, as common-sense and statutory food hygiene must take care of that; nor the dry goods that have a stock rotation programme and are put on special offer in advance of best before date. Well-considered systems will sort those out

“Time, gentlemen (and ladies), please”

I’ve read opinions in this magazine that shops should always be open if there’s a chance of customers being around. That’s fine if one has an adequate supply of trained staff that can be put onto adjusted rotas and thus spread more thinly – the marginal cost of opening for the extra time would then run to little more than electricity for lights, tills and scales. Small shops seldom have that luxury; our world has the constant challenge of scheduling staff to cover core hours around sickness, holidays and other unplanned events. Naturally, should the additional business add proportionately to turnover, then it’s worth looking at increasing headcount, or at least boosting the overtime budget

“Monogamy: overrated?”

How many partners have you had? If it is a small part of your business, it may be that you use just a single supplier. If it plays a major part, multiple suppliers may be needed to achieve the range that you want

“Q – score more than 10 points”

It’s an oft repeated cliche that we are a country of shopkeepers; also that we Brits respect, indeed LOVE a queue. Consequently the line of customers that most cheesemongers experience in December could be seen to represent the British Christmas as definitively as a Robin on a greetings card, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or The Queen’s Speech


When The Who’s Roger Daltrey sings “I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth,” one might be forgiven for thinking that he came from a family of habitual deli-sample guzzlers

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