Is your deli a desert or a destination? Consumer preferences change over time, and successful delis change with them. Efficiency is one of the best ways to optimize your deli operation. However, efficiency alone won’t address changing tastes and trends, and doesn’t make up for a great layout and enticing displays. Unhappy or harried staff can deter returning customers. We’ve got some suggestions for deli managers and shop owners.
Start With Your Staff
Foodservice is a high turnover industry. It’s grueling, often uncomfortable, and can be dangerous. Deli owners and managers who put their workers’ health and safety first will gain their loyalty. More importantly, they will gain staff buy-in to changes and new ways of working to optimize deli operations. Listen to staff suggestions, as those on the front lines often have the best ideas on how to streamline and improve service. Workers who are confident their managers care about them personally and who have opportunities to learn and advance will present a positive attitude and a polished image to your customers.
Invest in Equipment and Technology
Even the happiest staff member can still be hampered by old, slow, or malfunctioning equipment. Give them the best tools, like a new electric meat cutter that is easy to maintain and quick to get back online. Supply them with scales, pans, and display cases that are easy to use, attractive to look at, and easy to clean. Use technology like tablets and deli management software that keeps track of inventory and customer preferences. Share that data with your staff to inspire ideas for new items.
Stay on Top of Trends
While some deli customers will always want the traditional sandwiches involving meats, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, consumer tastes follow trends relating to diet, health, and sustainability. Broaden your offerings to include artisan, vegan, and low-carb items. Expand your menu of fully-prepared foods, so customers can select an entire meal, not just components they must take home and assemble themselves. Delis have become quasi-restaurants for many consumers, who expect not just meats and cheeses, but also soups, salads, fried, baked, and rotisserie items and sides like fries, onion rings, and slaw. Some delis offer sushi, while others expand their culinary reach into global cultures to serve diverse tastes.
Keep it Fresh, Local, Sustainable, and Convenient
There’s nothing more off-putting than macaroni salad that has a dry or yellowing appearance, half-empty trays of lasagna or fries, or the last, lonely potato jacket wrinkling under a heat lamp. These things instantly telegraph that food isn’t fresh. Keep your displays visually enticing, and the food displayed there fresh and replenished frequently. Don’t discount your late afternoon and early evening customers who may count on you for a quick, healthy meal after a weary day.
Post attractive signage explaining which of your items are locally sourced and what sustainable practices you use to reduce waste and respect the environment. Finally, make it convenient for customers to see, request, and pay for their items without having to figure out who is next in line for themselves.
Optimizing your deli operations comes down to showing your workers and your customers that you listen and care.