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How to Run a Deli

To stay competitive in this growing sector you need to keep ahead of the trends and never compromise on the quality of your stock.

The demand for speciality, local, fair trade food is rising, prompting supermarkets to capitalise on the deli trade. However, with Tesco’s recently shutting 90 of its fresh food counters, it seems consumers aren’t fooled by their marketing ploys. 

To be a great deli owner, you need to be passionate about sourcing and producing quality products. There are lots of effective methods you can put into practice to keep your business competitive and attract a regular customer base.

Build a dynamic team

It can be very difficult to recruit, train and keep hard-working, motivated staff in the food retail industry. Make sure you spend time teaching your staff about the different products and develop their customer service skills to increase your sales.

A good business owner should know how to delegate tasks, it’s impossible to handle every issue yourself. Train your staff to deal with a multiple of scenarios so you can have the confidence they will run the business efficiently when you’re not around.

You should have a good rapport with your managerial staff and business partner if you have one. It’s important that you and your team understand and implement the key company ethos and principals that you established at the start of the business.

It can be hard to motivate retail staff, especially during long weekend shifts. Offer incentives to boost staff morale and create a fun, productive and efficient work environment. During quiet shifts spend time training and encouraging your staff.

Manage your stock

One of the greatest skills you will learn when running  a deli is how to order the right quantity of products. Counter items such as speciality cheeses and hams are perishable and costly; if you don’t sell your stock quick enough, you’ll have to reduce your prices.

Your store’s location, the time of year and the weather will have a considerable impact on your sales; customers shop less in hot weather. However, you could attract clients by offering sale prices on picnic foods or setting up an ice cream stand.

To make your deli business stand out you need to offer a variety of food and keep your stock fresh and unique. If you’re struggling to shift stock then offer samples, or host in-store events such as cheese tasting evenings or preserve making courses.

Your stock room should be kept orderly so that your employees know how to find items and stock shelves easily. It will also help you to keep a tab on when you need to order more stock; try to bulk buy to secure lower prices and reduce delivery fees.

Cater to regulars

Deli customers generally eat healthy, fresh products, but the location of your store will also determine the type of clientele. Embrace local food classics such as Melton Mowbray pie or Stilton blue cheese – named after a town in Cambridgeshire.

Review your monthly accounts and find out the average spend of your customers; price your products to cater to the social demographic of the area. If your deli is in a tourist trap, stock products that travellers can take home as food souvenirs or gifts. 

If your store relies mainly on regular customers, then take time to remember what items they like and cater to their tastes. Having a loyal client base can help you to embed your business in the community, and you can get to know your regulars well. 

Attend trade shows

Set up a stall at local markets or trade shows to promote brand awareness for your store. Attending weekend markets or food and drink industry events can also help boost your weekly sales, and it only requires two employees to manage a stall. 

Trade shows are also a great place to network with other local business owners, farmers, producers and suppliers. The more contacts you have in the industry, the more your business will thrive; you should also be aware of who your competition is. 

If you are going to set up a market stall, entice shoppers with fresh food samples that are too tempting to resist. Spend time speaking to potential customers and find out what they want from their deli; regular market research will help your business grow.

Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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