Problem solver: Hot ideas and a fresh approach can help deli counter sales
Q: I run a forecourt shop but I am really struggling with what to do with my hot deli counter as I find it hard to keep product moving fast enough, especially after 13.30?
A: Hot deli counters can be a real challenge for the reasons you have mentioned.
Many shops cook vast amounts of product between 7am and 9am, and little through the rest of the day. The customer that arrives at lunchtime, could well get product that has been on the counter for several hours and it will be dehydrated and have lost all of its flavour.
Start by going back to basics and reviewing your production schedules. Cook small and cook often. The better quality should encourage sales. I would also recommend that you engage with your key supplier as many now have development chefs and training managers who will assist you in expanding your menu. The best thing after 2pm could be to close the counter and to use some of the new high-speed ovens to cook from a menu rather than having dead-looking products putting everyone off.
I have even seen a few retail operators now who have got rid of their hot deli counter in favour of a more extensive cold deli counter, with many of the sandwiches and rolls also being available toasted or baked. Before you do anything, go out on tour for a day and look at as many different retail formats as you can and see how each one is handling this dilemma. Every retail business has it and you will find it refreshing to see the various solutions.
Q: I run a jewellery shop and we put lots of emphasis on doing special things for our customers like champagne at engagement consultations and private consultation rooms. How can we be sure we're maintaining our edge?
A: I will start by complimenting you on your enthusiasm to improve your customer experience. This initiative to constantly drive standards is all too often missing from businesses. It is this very point that I want to emphasise in response to your query.
There is always a danger with consumer initiatives that once they are put into place, they remain in place for ever and that what was once innovative becomes mainstream as your competitors follow you. You could be a stand-out operator and a few years later viewed as no different to anyone else. The examples you have given were once innovative but I doubt if there is a jewellers in the country that doesn't provide them now. The customer experience needs to constantly evolve and a great way of doing this is to sit down with your staff periodically and challenge each other to come up with new ways of surprising the customer. Perhaps it is time for some old traditions to move on, or to be supplemented by some new 'first to market' ideas.
Q: Together with a group of other businesses we are trying to formulate a strategy to attract more tourists to our region. We have come up with lots of actions and events, but we're not sure how to make it happen?
A: Fáilte Ireland do fabulous work to create strategies to increase the tourist footfall in specific areas. Your first port of call should be there. They will have an expert who can guide you.
The detail you provided talks about actions and activities, but there is no mention of a strategic vision or strategic objectives. You must start with the bigger picture. What will your region by famous for? Why will it be different? Who is your target visitor? What seems to be working for some regions, is when they take one or two key areas and make very clear and firm statements about these. You can't be all things to all people and specialising in a key message will really help your team define where it is that you are going.
Send your small business questions to email@example.com