Focus on: Delicatessen & Fish

Aaron McDonald explores how butchers can expand their client base by offering a selection of delicatessen products. 

In an ever changing shopping climate, it is important for the independent butchers to stay one step ahead of the game and cater for consumers’ constantly adapting demands. For some, just having one string to their bow simply isn’t enough. 

An avenue butchers should consider if seeking to expand their customer reach is incorporating a deli counter.

One business that saw an opportunity to cater to changing demands and took it is Elliots Kitchen Delicatessen in Towcester, Northamptonshire. “We had a butcher’s shop for quite some time, and then felt we needed to
diversify,” Pam Grattan from the deli side of the business says.

After successfully developing an old pork pie family recipe, Elliots opened a delicatessen shop alongside the butchers. Although the pies still remain the most popular option, the business now offers lasagne, fish pie, sticky toffee pudding and scotch eggs, among other produce.

“Putting a deli counter in definitely makes a difference to a butchers,” explains Grattan. This is important if independents want to stay competitive against the multiple retailers. “I think supermarkets are more and more affecting trade because they  offer so much now – they have their own deli counters. I think a lot of butchers are having to diversify into the deli side to try to keep up with the demand.”

Elliots sources its meat from the butchery side of the business, while other produce is sourced as locally as possible in an effort to back local suppliers. “Concentrate on quality; I think that’s the most important thing,” Grattan adds.

Local is key

Sourcing deli offerings within the local area and marketing them as such will help bring in customers, James Kittow of Kittows Butchers in Cornwall believes. He describes the business’s Fowey branch, which
houses the delicatessen, as being the “best deli in Cornwall”.

He advises other butchers looking to branch out into the delicatessen sector to emphasise the locality of their products. “Be prepared,” he says. “Move with the times, move with the market. Local is key. For us, people come to Cornwall for a holiday and it’s no use selling Melton Mowbray pork pies because people come to your shop for a bespoke product.”

Kittow says it is important to “keep your customer close”. Instead of just offering one-meal solutions, make sure you cater to all options. “Understand their needs, and build on that. Show a bit of diligence and think, hang on a minute, I bet they’ll like this. I guarantee you’ll do a sample of something different and they’ll love it
and they’ll have a bit of that. So you’re encouraging them that way.”

Uniting sectors

Charlie Turnbull, founder of Turnbulls in Shaftesbury, Dorset, believes one reason more butchers are incorporating a deli counter is rising consumer demand for convenience. According to Turnbull, butchers can capitalise on opportunities by expanding what they offer to customers.

“People are very much looking to splash out, usually on the weekend,” he acknowledges. “That splashing out is the same process, whether they’re buying pork chops or fillet steaks or buying cheese or charcuterie, or anything else you might call speciality foods.”

Turnbull recognises that many butchers offer some sort of cold cut counter, but suggests they think about expanding this even more. “Most butchers aren’t making the step beyond pork pies towards some of the more interesting meats: the salamis and the dry-cured hams. Most butchers are doing British-cured hams, why are they not doing dry-cured hams? It goes on the same slicer, it has the same hygiene regulations, it looks just as good.”

Turnbull also advises butchers to think about evolving from the “traditional butcher look” of tile and glass, which he describes as an “extension of their cutting room”. “I think it’s very limiting, and nowadays people don’t want to see where meat comes from any more.” He says customers should be encouraged to shop in a more comfortable setting, as opposed to a “pragmatic and necessity-based way”.

Turnbull concludes that he is looking forward to seeing what the future of the sector brings and advises butchers to learn from the way other businesses are run.

“I know a lot of farm shops are producing their own meat and they’ve expanded quite comfortably into deli counters and dried goods and all that kind of stuff. If a butcher wants to be inspired, go and look at the farm shops. They’ve got some really good stuff happening there.”

Fishy business

Butchers are looking to fish as an alternative offering for their business but what do they need to know before starting? Aidan Fortune casts off

Diversification is key to success in today’s business environment and some butchers have taken this to heart by offering a range of fish in their store. While it may seem like a betrayal to meat purists, fish is big business. According to Kantar Worldpanel data for the 12 weeks to 27 March 2016 chilled fish sales far outstripped other meat categories, aside from seasonal turkey, in terms of volume and value sales, seeing a 7.4% and 7.9% year-on-year growth.

So maybe not so ridiculous an idea. But as with any major business expansion, it’s vital to consider the costs and work involved with introducing fish to your shop.

Radcliffes Butchers in Castletown on the Isle of Man installed a fish counter 18 months ago during a refurbishment following customer demand.

Fish counter manager Alyson Kelly says it’s bringing something extra to the shop and the area. “What the owner of the business Chris Lennon wanted to do was bring services to the town that weren’t there before,” she explains. “When the shop was being refurbished, customers had asked about us selling fish so there was demand for it.”

Radcliffe’s stocks its fish counter through one main supplier for the majority of its range but also carries as much local produce as possible. “Our core range comes from a supplier who sources from Fleetwood but our crabs are locally sourced. We try to get as much local fish as we can but it’s not always possible so it’s better to have a dependable supply and use the local produce as a highlight.”

A year and a half into the venture, Kelly believes the work has paid off and the counter is a major contributor to the overall business. “It’s very busy and attracts a lot of customers who seem to love it,” she says. “It’s certainly justifies its space in the shop.”

It’s also not a case of clearing a space at the counter and placing some fish in there. Kelly explains that there needs to be clearly defined areas and equipment for selling fish. “We have our own counter, our own knifes and our own refrigeration,” she says. “There can’t be any cross-contamination with any other food in the shop. It’s all separate to ensure we abide by health and safety laws.”

To help keep things separate, Kelly’s sole focus is the fish counter. “It needs to be. I can’t be jumping on just when it’s busy as it requires a dedicated operator who is aware of the market and can answer customer questions.”

There’s no point in expanding a business if people don’t know about it. Kelly says that they shout about the fish counter to the public through the shop’s social media page and website as well as relying on word of mouth. Since we’ve opened the counter, it’s been a pretty even split between planned visits and impulse shoppers who are buying something else in the shop. Both are welcome but the second is great because they’re more likely to talk about it to their friends that leads to them planning visits.”

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