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Running a Deli shouldnt be this hard

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hello all, ive recently taken over as the chef/manager of a deli on LI in NY. There were many things promised and other issues that I was not made aware of before taking the position, but thats to be expected i suppose. I would like some advise to help me bring in more customers ive lowered my food cost to 33% since ive been here and my labor has been regulated but we need customers. Im a restaurant trained chef and thats how I would like to run this deli. Im trying to maintain a from scratch feel as opposed to buying prepped foods from Restaurant depot. Are there any marketing tricks or other ideas that you would like to share? Any help is appreciated. The owner wants me to bring in another consulting Chef to see what can be approved but Id like to start here?
post #2 of 13

Look at the four P's of marketing, price, product, promotion, and place.  Also who are your customers? Who is your competition? You may not need a consulting chef but a marketing consultant.  And remember advertising is not marketing.  Good luck and welcome to Cheftalk.

post #3 of 13

     I have a few questions, most rhetorical. 

Is your food any good? 

Where do your current customers come from?

What kind of neighborhood are you in?

Is there any foot traffic or are you on a busy highway?

How long has the deli been open?

What mix of products do you serve; prepared foods, sliced meats and cheeses, general groceries, sandwiches? 

Is the store clean and attractive? 

Is the sign out front notable and attractive?

Is parking a problem or convenient? 

Is the store front easily recognizable and inviting? 

Are there numerous other food options in the immediate area? 

  I will suggest you look at the deli as a customer would. Drive in, park, get out and approach the door. Enter and look around. What has your experience been thus far? Once inside, make purchasing decisions. What influenced those decisions? Did any one say hello? Was the experience pleasant? What was not pleasant? 

    Don't overlook any detail you happen across. The cracked, uneven asphalt of the parking lot, lack of parking lines, the faded signs, the sticky, hard to open front door, the lack of cheerful greeting, the selection of foods, choices provided, speed of checkout, etc.  

Any Yelp reviews you can read? While we all dislike them to a degree, if they are universal in their complaints, you already have some things to work on. 

post #4 of 13


I have a major question.....what is the Ethnicity  of the neighborhood? If it's predominantly hispanic you might need to  change it up a bit...If it's Jewish, then you might want more traditional Judaic foods. Is the owner willing to put money into marketing? From my experience, running a deli is a bit different than running a normal restaurant. Is there a retail business involved? What brand name products are you selling. If it's a Jewish neighborhood, running the Boars Head line might not be the smartest thing...lol. I do believe all the questions thrown at you from everyone so far are very valid. But most of all, if it's not your cup of tea, just move on. Oh..and BTW, don't you think ownership should have brought in a chef consultant prior to bringing you on board? DUH!

post #5 of 13

Samples. Push them on people. "New cole slaw (soup, hummus, whatever) we just prepared fresh in house today, tell me what you think...blah blah blah"

 

Any businesses in the area...samples. Hand out menus and business cards.

 

Put someone outside the front door...samples. Hand out menus and business cards.

 

Samples...did I mention samples?

 

"New cole slaw (soup, hummus, whatever) we just prepared fresh in house today, tell me what you think...blah blah blah"

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post
 

Samples. Push them on people. "New cole slaw (soup, hummus, whatever) we just prepared fresh in house today, tell me what you think...blah blah blah"

 

Any businesses in the area...samples. Hand out menus and business cards.

 

Put someone outside the front door...samples. Hand out menus and business cards.

 

Samples...did I mention samples?

 

"New cole slaw (soup, hummus, whatever) we just prepared fresh in house today, tell me what you think...blah blah blah"

 

Agree.

Food and wine tastings are really popular on the local charity circuit.

Great way to get your face and food out there as well as support some worthy causes.

Doesn't hurt that the majority of attendees eat out a LOT.

 

mimi

post #7 of 13

Lower the prices on the food and see if people come in.  If they don't then you need to make a change in the food.

 

Or you can change the food and keep prices the same.  See what happens.  The former is easier to start with I think.  You can do it by coupons, specials, punchcards, etc.  Whatever you try keep track of everything.

post #8 of 13

and most importantly, prices, offerings of competition!!!

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Justa Chef View Post


I have a major question.....what is the Ethnicity  of the neighborhood? If it's predominantly hispanic you might need to  change it up a bit...If it's Jewish, then you might want more traditional Judaic foods. Is the owner willing to put money into marketing? From my experience, running a deli is a bit different than running a normal restaurant. Is there a retail business involved? What brand name products are you selling. If it's a Jewish neighborhood, running the Boars Head line might not be the smartest thing...lol. I do believe all the questions thrown at you from everyone so far are very valid. But most of all, if it's not your cup of tea, just move on. Oh..and BTW, don't you think ownership should have brought in a chef consultant prior to bringing you on board? DUH!
Those are my thoughts as well at this time.
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your responses. Ive already learned a lot about what i can look at and do to improve thanks again
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimyra View Post

Look at the four P's of marketing, price, product, promotion, and place.  Also who are your customers? Who is your competition? You may not need a consulting chef but a marketing consultant.  And remember advertising is not marketing.  Good luck and welcome to Cheftalk.

Great advise thanks
post #12 of 13

@dps14716 , I was raised in the Family Food Service Business located in NY. Large family. Uncles owned 2 restaurants and 6 Delis in NYC. 3 of my aunts owned Delicatessens in Westchester.

My aunts were much more profitable in Westchester. All still going and being passed down to family after education. The 3 in Westchester are now being run by cousins, 1 with marketing degree from NYU, 2 with Law degrees from Columbia.

  Most food businesses gain success by standardizing product, consistency, customer service, etc. Basically building a box to work within for consistency. I found Delis to be a different animal. I always preferred to work the Westchester locations mostly because my aunts were willing to go outside the box. They still remain scratch, bake there own tops for roast beef, spuds still cooked for salads,etc.  the only differences from then to now is a couple have gone to sous vide on some meats and steam for spuds and things. 2 locations are in towns where a lot of actors and politicians live. The walk-in business was staffed according to flow for speed. Lunch has to be fast especially grab and go and delivery. Most runs were staffed by homemakers and disabled veterans that work 3-4 hrs. a day. Once you retain a customer and have repeat business you have to be willing to go outside the box. Once the customer feels they have a personal relationship, the price is usually secondary. Convenience is key. All locations have their own version of homemade frozen dinners. Weekly specials with reworked product. Most take out dinners are in a quasi casserole form. Packaged in a 4 compartment container. You can pop out a couple and reheat and save the rest. Personalized delivery service is very profitable. Most local retail customer service employees love when their lunch selections to arrive fresh and on time.

The marketing approach  is usually to larger retail businesses. First visit includes samples, menus, minimums, and survey to get input from employees.

  Another great income revenue is the strolling vendor. One location has probably 7 strollers. The deli supplies the removable equipment for their vehicles to keep perishables fresh. The vendors text their orders in the am. The vendors know what's popular on their route and their packed containers are ready when they arrive. They pick up and take off. They enter hair salons, nail places, approved companies,some long term construction site, schools, etc. with large baskets of asst. lunches. There are a lot of employees that would prefer to spend a little extra for good homemade food then roach coach food or commercial onsite selection. The vendors establish a personal relationship with these customers. They are usually sold out and returned in 2 hours. They do not take lunch orders.They're all authorised to go outside the box. The vendors stay on top of things. For instance, if the stock market is going crazy, none of the brokers can leave for lunch. That vendor will order accordingly. The customers also have communication. Some might request energy drinks- bars, cigarettes,etc. The vendor will get the items before she arrives.

  All locations have established relationships with a catering service that will offer complete service to larger groups with our food.

 When I ran one, the goal was to meet budget with the walk in business and the outside revenue was fluff.

Food cost was always below 25%. Labor was level. Constant full timers-full benefits, many part timers-no benefits, outside business, vendors-commission driven-1099. Deliverers-same. Worker comp started off high but dwindled with no claims. Company covered all accidents.

The most important factor was a taxing, it required that the customer always see  one identified same face on every visit. Owner-Chef-manager. It's the only way to personalize things. Most deli venues offer the same thing. Customer service/relations is usually the contributing factor for success and make one differ from the other.

 I don't know if any of this information is helpful to you. I just thought I'd throw up my experience.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #13 of 13

Panini,

 

Great Post!

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