Posted: 15/06/2022

Shop Talk: If I’d known then what I know now…

Tony Bagshaw, owner, Deli Bloc, Kettering 

Kafé Bloc had been going for eight years when the pandemic hit and overnight we were told to close our doors. We got all our existing suppliers on board and bought large sacks of flour, rice and pasta, fruit, veg, meat and even toilet roll. The following day we reopened as a grocery store. When we were eventually able to reopen the café, we knew it was going to be impossible to run both the store and café in the space we had. Fortunately, a retail unit two doors along became available and we signed a lease on that. Deli Bloc was born.  

My vision was to create an old-fashioned food shop crammed with goodies, from local cheeses, ham and homemade pies to chutneys, oils and jams – very different to the staples we were selling during lockdown. The reality is that the deli has become more of an extension to the café than I expected. A lot of people come in for the hot sausage rolls and sandwiches we make fresh every morning.  

Last year, the building next door to the deli came up for sale, so we bought that and moved the café into it, knocking down walls between the two buildings to amalgamate the two sides of the business. This enabled us to put in a bigger kitchen and accommodate more seating. 

We operate the café and deli as one entity. The deli is almost a stockholding area for the café. If I need a truckle of cheese for the kitchen, I just grab one from the deli. This means we rarely run out of anything.  

One of the tricks is to design the café menu for commonality of ingredients: we try and ensure that each ingredient we buy has multiple uses and is used in several dishes. We wouldn’t buy an ingredient for just one dish.  

The café generates two-thirds of our turnover, and the deli a third, which corresponds to the space they occupy. The two parts of the business produce a similar net profit. The higher labour costs associated with running the café are balanced with higher margins, while on the deli side, margins are lower but so is the cost of labour.  

Staffing has been a challenge in recent years. We have a higher staff turnover than we used to, due to people leaving the industry. I started off in the kitchen doing all the cooking and now, 10 years later, I am back there again as staff have left. We have eight or nine employees on the books at any one time, which equates to four or five full-timers.  

Considering the current climate, the business is performing well. The café continues to grow month on month and the deli is ticking over nicely, although many people have reverted to their old shopping habits.  

My plan for the future is to try and take a holiday. Before I go though, I want to make sure everything is running as it should be.  

Interview Lynda Searby 

Photography Richard Faulks 

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