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Could you start your own deli?

The consideration needed when setting up a food retail outlet

Rural food outlets, whether it’s a farm shop or a deli always have a special feel about them. They generally offer local produce or products that cannot be found on your supermarket shelf. It’s a shopping experience that many people see as a luxury but, get it right and you could see locals returning time after time.

If setting up your own food outlet is an option you’re considering, read on to find out some key insights to get you started.

Is there the demand? 

Enthusiasm is a vital part of starting any business, it’s what makes everything happen but don’t let it get in the way of clear thinking. Just because you think it is great doesn’t mean everybody else will.

Try to look at your location, whether that’s your local town or village, through the eyes of your potential customer, and ask yourself, what is missing? What frustrates them? What could you offer them that the local supermarket isn’t? What do they drive miles to buy? What would make their life easier?

It’s worth considering setting up a Survey Monkey questionnaire. Ask your friends and family to complete it, set up a Twitter account and set it free in the social media world and see if the local paper or Parish Magazine will feature the link. The more information you can get the better chance you have of understanding your customers and not making a costly mistake.

Ultimately, this will help decide whether there is a demand for your offering and whether you could offer something that is different from competitors and attractive to your target audience.

Stock

It’s never too early to start looking for suppliers and making relationships with them, they are just as important as your customers. You will need to love their food enough to enthusiastically sell it and trust them to deliver a quality product.

Travel around all the food fairs and farmers markets in your region and do some mystery shopping. Which stalls are busiest? Which food and packaging look most appealing? Is the product priced well? How enthusiastic are the sellers about their food?

Pick the best and start to build a rapport, this is not like buying food from a wholesaler, your success relies on good supply, so nurture the relationship. Your suppliers are the start of your network and are very much part of your team.

Your suppliers are key to making a profit and you must be prepared to negotiate. For non- perishables (shelf fillers) you may be able to agree on sale or return, you might be able to persuade suppliers to run a promotion, in the early days to keep your start-up costs down (and as you learn what your customers want) you could take less favourable wholesale rate which reduces your profit but gives you more flexibility. Always be fair, agree on terms in advance and stick to them.

You’ll also need equipment and utensils and your team of suppliers can also be really useful here. It could cost upwards of £30,000 to fit out a deli (counters, fridges, slicers, coffee machines), anybody in your network who can give you free and impartial advice and point you in the right direction is crucial, just ask.

On the day your deli opens you need to have all your ‘ducks in a row.’ That means having lots of local, different and quality products, all beautifully presented all ready for sale as the customer's flood in. How a product comes across visually, at a first encounter, can be very important for return custom.

People are increasingly concerned about the provenance of their food and are keen to support local and artisan producers and are willing to pay a premium, but the quality has to be top notch, different to what they can get elsewhere, and consistently available.

Location

With any retail outlet, you need to look very carefully at footfall. Customers will travel to buy special food products but inevitably much of your trade will be spur of the moment.

For most shops in a Market Town, it is the location that is key to making the most of passing trade. The delightful thing about a deli is that you can afford to think a little differently.

For example, slightly off the High Street may mean you are nearer to parking so customers are tempted to buy more and you are less likely to encounter pavement use regulations so can spread out and use outside displays which can be especially enticing for seasonal produce and flowers.

If you are based in a rural area think carefully about getting customers to your deli. If you are a long way down a windy road how will your customers find you? Is the road accessible in all weathers? Are the premises safe all the time? What will entice them to your deli? Think carefully about signage, you can’t just nail a sign to a tree, some signage even needs planning permission so ensure you talk to your local council before you select your location.

Safety

Any retail food business must comply with food hygiene and health and safety regulations, try to see this as a positive. The food safety officers are not your enemies, they want to help run a safe and successful business, use their expertise to guide you. Your customers will be assured and you will gain new skills.

Tell your story

You need to entice new customers and keep them coming, not so much one-off marketing campaigns, more building a brand with you at the heart. Your passion, your love of local food, your commitment to service and creativity, your desire to give the customer the ultimate food experience, everything you do you must convey this to your customer, to get them to buy-in to what you are offering.

The Maya Angelou quote ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’ is never truer than in retail. If you make the customer feel special they will keep coming back and keep telling their friends.

Make sure you shop is always warm, inviting, exciting and a different experience. Build brand loyalty by offering loyalty cards, collect email addresses and let people know when their favourite food is back in stock or send newsletters.

Other ideas for building your brand loyalty:

  • Carrying shopping to the car
  • Website and online ordering
  • Profiling your suppliers
  • Organising sample or cooking days
  • Offer party packages
  • Appeal to children

Running a deli is hugely exciting and very fast moving. You need enthusiasm and boundless energy, if one promotion doesn’t work don’t spend time fretting, move on to the next. If fluffy multi-coloured meringues in crisp brown bags don’t work, how about homemade biltong and beetroot bread?

Farm diversification, diversification ideas, rural business, rural business ideas

 

Farm diversification, diversification ideas, rural business, rural business ideas
 

About The Author

Fiona Davies 

WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) 

More Information

Top tips for your deli business:

  • Think about your customer first, second and always
  • Your suppliers are also customers, make friends, forge relationships
  • Don’t go for the obvious location
  • Check with the Town Council for:
    • Change of use to a food business
    • Signage
    • Pavement use
    • Food hygiene/health and safety

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