How can you make more of your accompaniments at a time when customers are cutting back?
The consumer spending squeeze is very real and the results are evident in shoppers’ spending habits as we see customers down-valuing their meals, swapping fish and chips for fishcake, sausage or pie and chips. As a result, many shops are now only offering one standard size of fish, getting rid of the large for the time being as customers simply aren’t ordering it or because it makes the menu look too expensive with it on there.
Sauces and condiments, on the other hand, are still relatively cheap in comparison and can generate a high profit. And while fish, sausages and pies might be your bread and butter, Stelios Theocharous, MD at ingredients supplier Ceres, stresses how important sauces and sides are, adding: “Condiments and sides are essential at the best of times. They can help get a gross profit of a meal from, let’s say, 50% up to 80%, and because the customer is already making the purchase, it doesn’t cost you any more to provide this.”
So how do you get customers to buy them? Firstly, you have to offer the best quality sauces and accompaniments you can, whether it’s in a sachet or a pot, bought-in or homemade.
Eric Snaith, who has branches of Eric’s Fish & Chips in Thornham and Holt in North Norfolk, and St Ives in Cambridgeshire, sells sachets of Stokes mayo and ketchup but makes his own tartare sauce and curry sauce, which sell for £1. He also makes four signature sauces – black garlic mayonnaise, seafood, spicy BBQ and buffalo sauces – in 50g pots that sell for £1.25. Eric comments: “Although people are cutting back, we find people don’t mind spending when what they are buying is good quality, so I think that attention to detail and quality is more important now than ever.”
Offering a homemade sauce also helps set a businesses apart and build loyalty, important when people are being more cautious about how many times they eat out and where to eat out.
Eric adds: “Our fish and chips is quite classic because it’s important to me that they are familiar. Having simple things like our homemade tartare sauce, our BBQ sauce or our buffalo sauce, they are unique to us so they make the meal a little bit more memorable and that’s why customers come back.”
To make sure no opportunity goes un-missed, Eric’s also bottles its sauces for customers to take home at £4.50 each. “I’ve always thought it’s a great thing if someone has a bottle of our sauce in their fridge because every time they open the fridge we’re there, reminding them.”
A different approach
It’s not always what you sell but how you sell it that is the difference between an extra pound in the till, and it’s something Middleton Foods is encouraging shops to get on board with.
Offering a comprehensive range of curries and gravies, including gluten free options, sales manager Nigel Ramsay says where budgets are tight and customers are looking to save money, why not offer a splash of curry or gravy?
“In addition to offering a full 4oz serving of curry or gravy, we’re saying add a splash and charge something, say, 40p,” he says. “It’s a great way to help people on a tight budget but also introduce side orders to new customers. Not everyone wants a whole pot of curry or gravy, but this way operators can simply add half a ladle over the chips and still charge something for it.
“You don’t have to push the boat out to enjoy Middleton’s delicious curries and gravies!”
In lean times customers can be quick to drop sides, so it’s up to you and your staff to employ some suggestive selling techniques to encourage them to make that additional purchase.
It’s something Dominic Eusden does at his shop, Fiddler’s Elbow in Leintwardine, Shropshire. He comments: “We have our till system set up so that when you put the customer order in, it comes up saying, would you like sauces? So it prompts us to ask the customer would they like mushy peas, gravy, curry or tartare sauce. Our mushy peas, for example, cost 35p per portion to make and we sell them for £2.00 on their own. With everything going up, each time we sell a pot of mushy peas it really helps towards covering our rising costs.”
Dominic also bundles his sides into a meal deal, adding: “By adding in the mushy peas we’re able to make a good profit still while giving the customer value for money. With the cost of living rocketing, we need to do everything we can to offer cheaper alternatives to customers to keep them coming in.”