- medium budget
- urban periphery
- the countryside
- deliver / take away
Alcohol abuse is dangerous for health. To consume with moderation.
For your health, eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day.
I’m sure you’re well aware that we’re living in the third millennium. Never the less, catering on the whole doesn’t strike me as having adapted to the era we live in. Fast-food, carvery, self-service buffets, take-away food were all invented back around 1950. And people call that modern! When you think about all the technological progress and upheaval in our way of life since 1950, you can only wonder. And it gets worse…
The delicatessens on our streets are still chalking up their special offers on the shop windows or on a blackboard in the shape of a pig – never mind 1950, this is 19th century! Perhaps it is moving and comforting for some to contemplate such Olde Worlde shop fronts personally I think it’s high time that the catering and delicatessen business took a leap forward into the present. If you’re feeling nostalgic about the 19th century you could always read Balzac and Dickens again. On the other hand, if you want to look towards the future, then perhaps I can help you. It’s true we can find some classy, up market delicatessens in large towns who offer refined food at an exorbitant price.
To set up, you’ll need a premises of 150m² minimum, with a shop front of 8m minimum. Either you set up in the centre of town of at least 35,000 inhabitants, near other food shops or you set up in a built-up area with a catchment area 35,000 inhabitants or more, in a busy shopping area or a long a busy road. Areas of low spending power are to be avoided.
You’ll be surprised by the lay-out I have in mind for your premises, very different from the usual delicatessens or take-away food places. Your lay-out will resemble that of supermarket. Floor tiles, walls and ceiling will be pristine white with bright lighting, all designed to project an almost clinically hygienic image.
Customers will enter through a turnstile. You’ll have cash-tills with super-market type conveyor belts, small trolleys and plastic shopping baskets. Refrigerators will line the walls at eye level and deeper refrigerators will occupy the centre of the floor space, if possible laid out to form aisles. In short, your premises will look just like a frozen food shop. The good news is that it’s not costly to achieve. You, however, will have a wall of windows looking on to your kitchen so that your kitchen staff will be visible while they work, again reinforcing the idea of hygiene and transparence. Therefore, dirty uniforms or unkempt staff are absolutely out of the question.
Your kitchen must be carefully planned to include an area for packaging and labeling your vacuum-packed food containers. Indeed, all your produce will be sold vacuum-packed. So you’ll need to consult companies specialized in kitchen planning because the regulations in this area are complex and ever-changing. Now, let me explain to you the main ideas behind this concept. Nowadays, there are many people who cook less and less. Either they don’t have the time or they don’t feel like it, or perhaps they don’t even know how to. Not forgetting the growing number of people who live alone and have little incentive to cook. All of this led to the development of convenience food. The problem is that this type of food isn’t always very good. It often contains additives and, worse again, harmful palm oil or copra oil which appear on labels under the name “vegetable oil” (the only non-vegetable oil is mineral oil which we use to grease the engines in our cars!). what’s more, when you take a look at what the food industry has to offer in the way of ready-made convenience food, the first thing you’ll notice is the poor choice which often seems limited to chicken and rice cooked in umpteen different ways.
One of the pillars of this concept is the vacuum packaging because it is advantageous both for the customers and for you. Your micro-wavetable containers will be sold in 1, 2, or 4 portions so that everyone can buy according to their needs and stock their meals easily in their fridges, heating them up in their microwave ovens as needed.
Another undeniable advantage of vacuum packaging is the shelf life. The sell-by date of vacuum packed food is 21 days, a real advantage for both the customer and for you. Just think about it, once a dish has been prepared you have weeks in which to sell it and as the sell-by date approaches you can put it on special offer. This means you’ll be able to cook in larger quantities, saving yourself time and money. You’ll be able to give your customers a wide choice so they can buy several meals in one go and if you’re seen to give good value for money you’ll soon constitute a core of what the Americans call heavy users i.e. customers who buy the bulk of their food in your outlet.
It’s worth considering your quality of life and that of your kitchen staff. Never having to work late in the evenings or on Sundays means offering catering jobs with what amounts to office hours will certainly make recruitment easier. If you are the chef your family life will surely benefit. Your shop personnel will consist solely of cashiers who will also stock the shelves. Your staff could open the shop on Sunday mornings and if you juggle with opening hours you should be able to stay open on weekdays until 8:30pm. You’ll be targeting people who work late, rarely coming home before 7:30pm when the traditional delicatessens have long since been closed.
As for your menu, I’m not going to inundate you with advice because in order to make this concept succeed, you are in all likelihood an experienced cook or caterer, with plenty of ideas of your own. Just a few reminders: all your food will be cooked on the premises using fresh ingredients of a high standard. No additives, no palm oil or copra oil. Try to use seasonal and local produce. You will, of course, cook a lot of the usual widely appreciated dishes but also some unusual modern recipes. When choosing fish, try to use the less widely used varieties. International food will also provide inspiration. It may be a good idea to sell fresh home-made pasta with a variety of sauces.
You could stock a range of aperitif finger-food such as canapés and amuse-bouches. Christmas and new year will provide an opportunity not to be missed to cook not only the traditional fare but also to try out some innovative dishes.
Before launching, organize massive letter-box distribution of a detailed brochure with examples of your food, the prices and highlighting your strong points: good quality meals cooked on the premises, entirely natural ingredients, a varied and regularly changing menu the advantage of a microwaveable container (and sometimes suitable for freezing), and your long opening-hours. Deliver your brochure to all shops, offices and companies in the area, many people eat in their workplace. People who work late will pick up meals after work. The best is to deliver the brochure several times over a short period for maximum impact. Compile a special brochure for Christmas time. A detailed web site would be an advantage. To conclude, I wish you every success in bringing catering into the third millennium. Which doesn’t exempt you from reading or re-reading Balzac or Dickens- that can only do you good!