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Party season offers a sparkling opportunity to showcase the very best cheese in your counters. For Laura Roberts, owner of Laura’s Larder, “it’s the pre-packed whole pieces of cheese which look good on platters that sell very fast, for example, the 250g Baron Bigod, Nettlebed’s Bix, Little Rollright or the delectable St. Jude which all make lovely sharing cheeses on platters. Isle of Wight Blue for blue lovers is also a must.”
To really create a special occasion around your cheese selection, sell well-curated partners for a variety of cheeses. “Accompany them with some fruity Miller’s Toasts, breadsticks, a Cobble Lane charcuterie selection pack and some Belazu Borettane Onions in Balsamic, and all you need to add are friends,” suggests Laura.
Showcase local produce
For recently expanded and refurbished Friday Street Farm, a shop, kitchen and butchery in Suffolk, their dedicated cheese room and impressive deli range is central to party season proceedings – indeed, the cheese team has recently started to supply bespoke cheese wedding cakes and food for parties.
For general manager Ralph Bishop, deli must-stocks include 250g wheels of Baron Bigod, truckles of Suffolk Gold, Suffolk Blue, hog roast sausage rolls, Stilton and caramelised onion sausage rolls, and Lane Farm’s Suffolk Smoked Ham as well as their Suffolk Honey & Mustard Ham – not forgetting a great selection of chutneys and relishes (especially those from local producer, Stokes) and biscuits to accompany these items.
The support of local makers doesn’t end there, as Ralph also recommends the products of local brewer Adnams alongside other wines of interest.
“We are finding local produce, even in these current times, is a key seller and one that our customers look for whilst shopping at Friday Street Farm,” explains Ralph. Offering quality food and drink from the local area is also key to Kent-based food hall Macknade.
“Our purchasing team are always looking for new and unique products to offer our customers and we also focus heavily on local – choosing English sparkling over champagne, Kentish crisps over other leading brands and so forth,” begins Rosie Collins, marketing director at Macknade.
“A number of these are small artisan suppliers who you won’t find in the supermarket, for example: Chartham Vineyards, whose wine is produced only a few miles from us.”
Ralph suggests thinking beyond snacks and nibbles to truly satisfy customers looking to cater to guests during party season; after all, dinner parties are just as popular with food-loving consumers as standing events.
“We have a great butchery right next door, suppling all types of locally sourced meat including oven ready-dishes that would be perfect for the party season. In the shop also, we have seasonal home-grown produce e.g. pick your own strawberries, potatoes, sweetcorn and asparagus (when in season).”
Upselling for success
Upselling is a vital skill for independent food and drink retailers to have during party season and beyond. “The trick is in giving your customers’ plenty of inspiration,” explains Rosie. “We like to include recipe cards on our display tables to give them ideas of what to serve and this will be no different for party season!”
Alongside new creations, Macknade will be relying on tried-and-true pairings which have proven popular in previous years. “Manchego and membrillo is always a crowd-pleaser, as is our Mr Peppers Sausage Rolls (made using an old Faversham recipe!), paired with a sweet red onion chutney.
“As for the drinks, we’re loving Van Nahmen’s Sparkling Verbena & Riesling Tea as a non-alcoholic alternative this year and we’re about to serve it at our next VIP event!” says Rosie.
“We do tastings in-store, during one we demonstrated making a platter and packaged the ingredients together which was a really great idea,” says Laura. “We heavily use social media at Laura’s Larder and we love to champion individual products on there to share their story so people understand why we sell it, why it has a certain price point and how we use it.
“People sometimes come in and show me the phone and ask “can you get me this?” It really does work.”
“We also have a website that you can send cheeseboard requests through which we then make for collection, great for busy people who might remember late at night they need something and of course we’re not open. I’d like to expand this offering further. We also have some priced platters using products from the shop and bakery which are easy for people who are entertaining.”
Christmas content supported by Woolcool – the pioneers of sustainable temperature-controlled packaging.