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How to Run a Successful Deli | Top 6 Tips for Deli Owners

Updated on: January 7, 2020
How to  Run a Successful Deli | Top 6 Tips for Deli Owners

Consumers are increasingly gravitating towards delis in search of quick, grab-and-go meals. Nearly three quarters of respondents from Progressive Grocer’s Retail Deli Review Survey projected an 80% increase in deli sales for 2019 over the previous year—a projection that aligned with the increasing number of consumers visiting delis for convenient meal solutions. 

Keeping this trend in mind, we delve a bit deeper into the ways you can position your deli as your neighborhood’s top local eatery. You already know what it takes to run a deli. Set your sights on something bigger: establishing your reputation as a go-to spot for comfort food or quick, on-the-go delights. The most successful delis have been around for decades, demonstrating the power of tradition, branding, and quality. Whether you’re new to the game or a longtime brand, here are some tips to help your deli stand out:

    1. Start from Scratch. It’s not a given that every deli prepares its own pesto, hummus, or “homemade” pie. Making and using quality ingredients is a must for reaching deli stardom. Do you cure and roast your meat on premises? Do you bake your bread in house? Ben’s Best, voted one of the country’s best delis by Food & Wine, steams their pastrami for six hours to unlock its flavors. Americans have a soft spot for a really good sandwich. Making one involves more than hasty assembly of pre-bought ingredients.
    2. Create a Signature Staple. Just as bands often have one person as the “frontman,” your deli may distinguish itself with a famous recipe or two that brings the crowd in to appreciate the rest of your menu. The food-loving community and local “Best of” lists scour each city’s delis in search of a delicious grilled cheese, classic strawberry pie, or award-worthy barbecue brisket. What’s your signature staple going to be? If you make it, they will come.
    3. Stock Your Secret Ingredients. This touches upon both tips one and two. When you make your ingredients from scratch and begin to establish yourself with signature products that represent your brand, your patrons may want to take home more. Do you make your own pickles, jam, or secret sauce? Consider bottling them and selling these products on your deli shelves, or at a local farmers’ market, for happy customers and a little extra profit.
    4. Cross Merchandise. Layout is key to optimizing floorspace for greatest return, as well as providing an exceptional customer experience. Voni Woods, VP of foodservice at Starbucks and Giant Eagle, stresses the importance of cross-merchandising your deli offerings. “Since foodservice is highly perishable, we are mostly not cross-merchandising out of department, but rather bringing items into the area for a more solution-based approach,” Woods states. Take advantage of your retail space and place compatible items within the same vicinity. For example, offer bread and crackers by the soup station, or place toppings and fixings near your salad and hot bar. And of course, don’t miss the opportunity to offer last-minute dessert options by the checkout counter. 
    5. Cater to Customers. Delis let diners eat relatively quickly, without succumbing to less-healthy fast food. A large chunk of your total clientele may consist of people seeking healthy, vegetarian, or low-calorie options. Does your menu offer a variety of enticing meals? Keeping this growing customer segment happy will help your business grow into the future.
    6. Leverage Your Labor. Behind every successful deli is an amazing team. Operational issues and challenges are inevitable but can be effectively managed when executed correctly. Providing an unparalleled customer experience will ensure client loyalty. This can only happen with the right team of employees. How much time are you spending training employees? Consider implementing technology in your deli that cuts back on employee training time and facilitates quick, easy transactions. 

Are you business savvy? In order for your deli to succeed in a rapidly evolving landscape, efficient management is necessary. Fortunately, the  inventory management and reporting tools available via Revel’s point of sale keep business owners informed on back-end operations in a straightforward manner, freeing you to greet customers at the storefront. Connect with one of our product experts to see if Revel is the right solution for you.