Counterpoint: How to sell cheese alfresco

22 June 2022, 15:08 PM
  • Warmer weather brings new opportunities to take your cheese offerings outside and cash in on picnic and BBQ trade
Counterpoint: How to sell cheese alfresco

With summer in full swing, it’s time to seriously consider picnics and BBQs. These communal occasions can be the perfect upsell for top-quality artisan cheeses that make time together special, so it’s worth investing time into it.

Selling and promoting alfresco
Selling cheese for outdoor occasions requires a bit more practical planning than your average cheese and wine night in.

As Stephen Fleming, owner of George of Joseph, explains, “You need to think about how people are going to eat things outdoors. We have a park close by, so we sell a Ploughman’s Picnic pack which in addition to the food items includes wooden knives, paper napkins and (for a small extra charge) a George & Joseph tote bag to carry it all in. It’s also good to think about drinks – we’ve added a small selection of soft drinks to our wine and beer offering so customers can add on these extra items too.”

“The key for us here is thinking about how easy a cheese is to eat outside – a super-runny Brie isn’t going to work very well. We slice cheeses into either small slices or cubes which work better outside and provide wooden cutlery.

“For accompaniments, we have catering packs of crackers and chutneys so our picnic offerings give customers just enough of everything in a format they can use up easily – rather than just selling a jar of chutney which would be too much and potentially a pain.”

When it comes to promoting cheese for outdoor eating, Gemma Williams, owner of The Little Cheesemonger, relies on her imagination. “Personally, I start by imagining myself in the situation, it’s a lovely day, the picnic blanket is out and we are feasting on… then I start to fill in the gaps”, she explains.

“What I do next is test run my idea and see how we get on. For instance, if I’d thought it would be a lovely idea to take some fresh Stinking Bishop and in reality, attracted every fly in a radius of 10 miles it would make me think differently about my offering and how I’d present the outdoor eating suggestion. Once you’re confident in what you’d like to offer take some lovely photos and get it on social media. This way you can see if people like the idea.”

Stephen also utilises visual stimulus for his promotion technique. “We have an A-board outside our shop with the Chunch (Cheese Lunch) menu on it, and posters in the shop of the Ploughman’s Picnic bag – taken in an outdoor setting so customers can see it in its intended surroundings.  We also promote on social media – keeping an eye on the weather forecast so we can really shout about it when there’s good weather ahead.”

Gemma Akroyd, owner of The Cheeseboard of Harrogate, also champions inspiring the imagination, “We sometimes have themes and promote cheeses from Spain inviting the customer to imagine they are sipping a cool glass of White Rioja and eating a 12-month Manchego in the warm sunshine of Seville or a glass of Chianti while tasting Italian Pecorinos from Italy!”

Hitting your target market
If your usual trade is families with children, there’s no point creating romantic cheese hampers with perfectly paired Champagne and strawberries. As Gemma Aykroyd explains, “Getting the market right is really important to maximise sales.  We’ve included soft drink options in our shop now which will appeal to both non-drinking adults and children alike.

“Customers can also change up the cheeses in our lunch offering more child-friendly choices, but in our experience, most of the children who come to our shop are fans of “grown-up” cheese and have very well-developed tastes!”

One idea that Stephen uses to get the offering right is to give his customers the chance to try cheeses before they buy their picnic hamper. But as he explains, “If they don’t want to try, we will make sure we put a variety in so there is something for everyone, i.e. a milder Wensleydale perhaps or a Cornish Yarg, and then if Dad likes a blue, we could suggest something punchier like a Leeds Blue or milder like the German Montagnola if he wants his children to try. We want to get it right so that customers return and recommend us to their friends and family!”

Finding something that works for all the family can be difficult, and is something Gemma Williams is well versed in. “Depending on what you currently provide this can be a tricky offering for families with young children. I know because I’m in that season of life myself, and although I seem to be raising a little curd nerd, my Niece and Nephew aren’t so interested in trying artisan cheese. A plain ham sandwich for them ticks the box with no fuss.”

The bottom line
Independent cheesemongers are in a unique position to use their expert knowledge and skill to upsell the perfect outdoor cheese selection.

As Gemma Aykroyd explains, “A cheeseboard is a perfect end to a meal at any sociable occasion with friends and family wherever you are. Perhaps customers don’t want a full-on menu at a picnic so why not tempt them with cold meats, cheese, pickles and fresh bread? Perfect for alfresco dining.

“They can be as basic or as fancy as they like, but all mouth-wateringly delicious. A Yorkshire pickle or truffle honey, a good mature Cheddar or goat Gouda, we have it all to fit any budget and tastes.”

Gemma Williams concludes, “It boils down to convenience. If a customer can pick up a gourmet picnic off the shelf or can book one to collect with limited effort the deal will sell itself. Create your offering with a nice photo, clear pricing and an easy call to action (telephone, web or message) you should soon see some orders rolling in.”

more like this
close stay up-to-date with our free newsletter | expert intel | tailored industry news | new-to-know trend analysis | sign up | speciality food daily briefing