Talking Shop with Rye Deli: A local deli with a difference

22 November 2021, 07:53 AM
  • The passion Dezi Dalton, proprietor at Rye Delicatessen, has for what she does has transformed her business into a destination deli
Talking Shop with Rye Deli: A local deli with a difference

I left my career in London to move to Rye to raise my family but quickly decided that I wanted to do something that would keep me busy but allow me to meet the needs of growing children. 17 years later we have grown the business to become an integral part of the Rye community as well as a destination to the thousands of visitors who are drawn to this historic and ancient Cinque Port Town.

Who’s in the team?

We have grown to a team of 16 people including our amazing kitchen team headed by chef Tamzin Sundaram who runs a happy, creative kitchen team scratch-cooking from ingredients from our local larder as well as using the more unusual and exotic. This keeps our offering fresh, current and abundant as there are always at least 12 fresh salads, numerous cakes, bakes, savouries, snacks and a freezer range of small batches of delicious meals that draws on heritage recipes from numerous members of our diverse team.

What sets the business apart from other independent retailers?

Our spot in East Sussex places us at the border of Kent and together we are rich in artisan producers of cheese, excellent fresh produce including legendary strawberries and asparagus as well as livestock which includes premium beef but also world-renowned Romney Marsh Lamb, and from our shores, the best scallops you can possibly imagine. Our local vineyards are producing wines that have stolen a march on the world stage and Rye Deli is a great place to pick up one of the excellent offerings from Charles Palmer, Mountfield, Gusbourne or the Isle of Oxney!

What are you most proud of at Rye Delicatessen?

We are very much part of the local community and have had the privilege of catering off-site not only for parties on a smaller scale but weddings and other celebrations of all scales. Our ‘word-of-mouth’ reputation has extended far and wide and we have serviced hundreds of location shoots for film production and national and international companies. The team at the Deli are very much that, a team, and as Rye locals they invariably know most of the people that cross our threshold. This enhances the personal service that we pride ourselves on and as a consequence we have a strong, loyal customer base.

It was this element that kept us open everyday throughout the pandemic, serving in the shop but also setting out a network with our team to make home deliveries. The increase of our bespoke hamper service grew beyond all expectations as people made food gifts a go-to solution in the pandemic; a trend that has remained in place following the easing of restrictions. We continue to take orders from far flung places to deliver food gifts to our wider community.

One of the areas of interest our customers have expressed is cookery demonstrations and we hope to launch a series of classes in the Spring of 2022. In addition, we will bring back local producers to come in-store and showcase their products. This was always a great draw pre-pandemic where customers connect with producers, learn of their journeys and get to enjoy their offering with understanding of provenance and product! Great for promoting sales but also for getting real, first-hand feedback and taking your customers with you on your food explorations.

We have seen a great shift in the profile of our food offering with a growing percentage of shelf space and homemade foods being given to the production of vegetarian and more specifically vegan produce. It has been exciting to create new homemade lines and has resulted in new ingredient items to our larder.

We were the proud winners of a Speciality Food competition which gave us thousands of pounds of goods, some of which we had been to reluctant to try. As a result, we now stock so many new lines including Beeswax food wrappers and Kimchi!

What challenges have you experienced recently?

Every year sees a growth to our business. There are always new challenges despite the pandemic, but that really brings us together as a team. We have a real open philosophy and try to create an environment where there is room for everyone’s ideas and input. We embrace participation in local events some of which require us to dress up! We are lucky to be a group of people who love food, love people and love what we do, with no two days ever being the same!

What’s next for Rye Delicatessen?

We are constantly asked if the Rye Deli Cookbook will ever be available, and of course, as ever, it is time that gets in the way. But, as the team and the business grows it is most definitely working its way up the agenda! Watch this space!

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