30 Nov Nobody came into my beautiful delicatessen for weeks… Here’s what I learned.
Beautiful Delicatessen place
In late summer of 2005, I opened a upscale, beautiful delicatessen selling fine food products. Although the business eventually became a roaring success, the first few weeks left me wondering if I’d made a huge mistake. Almost NOBODY came through the door.
Not one to give up without a fight, I rolled up my sleeves, put on my thinking cap, and listened to my intuition. The series of observations I made next, and the actions I took, are still some of the best lessons I’ve learned in business to this day. What’s more, they are universally useful.
Whatever your business (be it a restaurant or a spice shop), I am certain that they will help you. So, here they are:
Don’t intimidate your customer.
Wanting to impress, I decorated the delicatessen, BEAUTIFULLY. It looked fancy, top-class… expensive?
On top of this, the line of food products I stocked was special. The kind of food that’s exclusive yet fairly priced, hard to source, desirable… or so I thought. I took a step back and thought for a moment of how I, myself, feel when I walk past a beautiful clothing boutique. Even if I like the clothes in the window, if the shop looks ‘too fancy’, I’m not likely to go in, unless it is very special occasion. “I won’t be able to afford anything in there…”, “The staff will be snooty….”, and on a deeper, subconscious level… “That shop is not for people like me…”. I realised that I had unwittingly intimidated my customers. Many paused and looked in, but few opened the door. A simple and affordable redecoration, and things began to improve.
Make sure your customer doesn’t feel exposed.
Often, when we go into a shop, the last thing we want is the swooping attention of the person working there. Nor do we enjoy feeling observed while we browse.
My lovely delicatessen consisted of a small, but open space. When a customer came in, we were immediately sharing that space. I decided to conduct an experiment: if I gave the customer a few nooks and crannies to move around in, a bit of intimacy for browsing, would they feel safer? Less exposed to my presence? Sure enough, the experiment paid off. I moved few pieces of furniture to create barriers between myself and the customer. More people came in, and even better, they stayed longer, asked questions and yes…. made purchases!
Try to fit in.
My vision had been a speciality delicatessen, one to which people would flock from all over the city of London, just to buy that tin of luxury crab meat that couldn’t be found anywhere else.
And yes, eventually I had some trade like that. But I quickly realised that I did not fit in to the neighbourhood, and that local footfall was going to be the making or breaking of me. It was time to get to know the neighbours. And I knew that I would have to do this in a meaningful way: paying lip service to the idea would not suffice. I got out into the neighbourhood, made friends, attended events, researched what people liked to eat and do, invited people into the delicatessen, and made changes to my line of products which better suited the location.
Always, ALWAYS see your business with your customers eyes. Make sure you, the premises and the product are approachable. And perhaps most important of all, be adaptable, reactive and don’t give up.