30 April 2018, 11:48 AM
  • Evolving your outlet to incorporate a fresh food area can add another string to your gastronomic bow - here's how to do it
How to: get started in foodservice

It may be a common bugbear for many in the fine food community, but you can see why much of the general public affiliate the word ‘deli’ with serving cooked food. During the last decade of so, trendy eateries have been popping up left, right and centre and are often referring to themselves as delis when they usually don’t actually sell any retail products. While this movement may irk many, the metamorphosis of the word can actually work to your advantage if utilised in the right way.

When you contemplate how much a cup of tea is worth in some eateries, it’s easy to see why many retailers are turning to this route. Also, if your shop prides itself on the fine foods and drink that it stocks, then why not sell it, but in another format? If you have a surplus of Brie de Meaux, a freshly baked sourdough bread and delectable butter, what’s the harm in putting that together and serving it to your customers, if you have the space, staff and facilities?

It might mean getting to the shop a bit earlier to put together some salads and other items, but a foodservice arm can also foster a stronger bond with customers. If talking artisan food is what prompted you in your fine food endeavour, there’s no more tangible way to detect your customer’s appreciation then serving them the cooked produce there and there to enjoy. An expertly curated charcuterie or cheese board (a combination of both never goes amiss!) is the ultimate way to showcase your suppliers’ creations, too. A step further would be to pair this with a wonderful bottle of wine or craft beer – alcohol licence permitting, of course.

One deli which prepares food for its customers is Lawson’s Delicatessen in Aldeburgh in Suffolk. “The food we prepare in-house is key to our business, it represents about half of all sales,” explains Clare Jackson, co-owner. “We sell food to take away for picnics on the beach or an easy meal at home: fresh salads made daily, sausage rolls, quiche and pork pies. We also offer a range of soups and frozen meals.”

When it comes to running the fresh food part of the business, Clare says the factors to take into consideration aren’t too dissimilar from the ethos that many delis and fine food shops uphold anyway. “It comes down to good quality ingredients, good flavours and freshly made products,” she tells us. “A range that includes old favourites and offers something new.”

For any premises that serves fresh food, it goes without saying that hot drinks are considered a fundamental part of the equation. Many visitors will expect a quality cup of coffee and if you’re located in a touristy area, offering a cream tea is always a much-loved option. Lawson’s hot drinks selection is so popular that they offer many products as retail options, too. “We have a great selection of teas for sale to make at home, and treats such as homemade flapjack and brownies to take away, too,” explains Clare. “The coffee we sell is Monmouth from Borough Market, which we offer for takeaway and for the beans ground to use at home as well. The most popular hot drink we serve is a latte.”

Working in unison
Another establishment that takes the foodservice section of the business seriously is Weetons Food Hall in Harrogate. “Our fresh food section is an extremely important part of our business,” says Keren Shaw, general manager of Weetons. “It really is the anchor which brings footfall, and subsequently spend, in the store.”
The chance to cross-sell and for the food service area to work in unison with the retail arm of the business shouldn’t ever be overlooked, emphasises Keren. “It’s one of our points of difference,” she says. “Our bacon and sausage sandwiches are hugely popular at breakfast, mainly due to the fact that all of the meat comes from our butchery counter and is of outstanding quality and provenance. The same applies for our lunch menu, as our Deluxe Burger is our most popular dish and we often find people will purchase from the butchery counter after having one. Customers are often asking if we stock the dressings, chutneys and sauces which we use in our dishes. We also have a specific grazing board with products selected from our deli counter – people really like the fact that the product is fresh from the counters and they can have the option of purchasing them afterwards. The list goes on!”

Another parallel that can be drawn with Lawson’s is how essential the hot drinks side of the business is to Weetons Food Hall, especially catering for customers with varying requirements. “We sell a variety of hot drinks to have in or take away and find americano coffees, lattes and cappuccinos are always the most popular,” says Keren. “Saying that, decaffeinated options are definitely on the rise, as are requests for different varieties of milk. We did offer a typical afternoon tea, but found our point of difference lies more with our savoury options, as the experience around the food hall lends itself to this.”

A different type of food outlet
As well as operating a much-visited restaurant, Fish Shed and Ale House on-site, Darts Farm has a dedicated Deli Bar which serves freshly-made baguettes, toasties, soups and salads using the quality ingredients from its farm shop, food hall, butcher, baker and deli. “We established our Deli Bar in 2003 and since then it has been incredibly successful,” explains Michael Dart, director of Darts Farm. “The service we produce helps to take pressure off of our restaurant when we are at capacity and provides a different type of food outlet, where we offer more snacks and light takeaway lunches.”

Using wonderful produce is one of the reasons behind the Deli Bar’s popularity, however there’s a whole host of other factors why his customers adore it, explains Michael. “Having a great team is absolutely essential and everything else follows,” he says. “Along with good stock control and food hygiene, we look to produce creative displays, as well as a big smile and great customer service!”

Absolutely integral to the eatery is its food-to-go range, which Michael states works well due to the location of the establishment. “Our takeaway options are incredibly popular as we get lots of people stopping by during their lunch hours, as well as busy passing traffic,” he says. “People also seem to enjoy our hot drinks very much, too. We sell all types of barista coffees using our single origin coffee beans, as well as a variety of teas and hot chocolates. For colder options we have a selection of smoothies and milkshakes, which we find are very popular over the summer months. Especially popular during the same time of the year is our afternoon tea, which creates a real wow factor amongst visitors, holiday-makers and locals alike!”

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