Deli Counter- Winter comfort food



The chilly season – the one thing everybody is looking forward to, is warm, hearty dishes. We look at what should be on offer at the hot food counter.






It’s that time of year again when braai fires and al fresco eating make way for fireplaces and meal get-togethers in indoor dining areas, which means it is a good time for the deli owner.

Even better, for your time-challenged customers, “homemade” doesn’t necessarily mean “made in my kitchen” – as long as it’s wholesome and made in a kitchen.



When planning your hot counter food items, you know you can’t go wrong with soups, stews, casseroles and pasta bakes, but you need to ask yourself how you can add to these comfort foods in terms of both new recipes and new items so that your shoppers keep coming back for more.

The next consideration is how much time it will take for your staff to prepare these hot meals and how companies supplying them can assist with your time management.

Also bear in mind your customers’ time. Remember, the reason why they are visiting your deli in the first place is because they are in short supply of time as well as being indecisive about what to prepare.

Consumers know that buying entreés and side dishes in individual containers priced per gram is expensive; they don’t need to feel burdened when they have to select separate “mix and match” items on top of watching their spending. In addition, as we will show, this method of meal selection have other limitations that may negatively affect sales.



If someone wants to buy, say, a green bean, pumpkin and rice side dish plus fried chicken, a meal for two people can be costly. In this instance, the person may opt for your cheaper chicken stew-and-rice instead, which doesn’t necessarily need to be supplemented with side dishes.

Unless your customer wants a meat-and-starch meal only, clearly this method of pricing limits his or her selection and, therefore, your potential for selling a wider variety of food.

Using the same green bean, pumpkin and rice side dish plus fried chicken example, by giving your customer the option of selecting two vegetable servings of their choice, your scope for selling across the board broadens. Moreover, you can offer this complete meal for two, which makes for a much more attractive alternative – in both the money and decision-making departments.



Equally important for deli dwellers is variety, so create a menu that includes the main dish in widely appealing categories: vegetarian; meat, poultry and seafood; and ethnic. Pasta, breyani, bobotie, stroganoff… There is a host of possibilities.

When planning items for the hot counter you are also presented with the perfect opportunity to supplement your income by collecting surplus offcuts and leftovers from other departments and putting together “specials”, which will tempt both existing patrons and newcomers.



Speaking of which, don’t lose sight of gaining more sales from other departments in which special deals are offered. Carnivores, for example, won’t hesitate to try your vegetarian or vegan dishes if you make sample cups available.

In fact, have samples available of all your new, niche, or season-specific dishes – especially items like warm desserts. Since sweets fall in the “luxury” category, you have to make a point of how irresistible they are.

Finally, to grow phone-in orders, make sure that you promote your hot foods menu on your website, alternating dishes on a regular basis.




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