Have you ever thought that value adding did not suit your business or you customers would not buy it?
Customers are looking for more than chops, steaks and sausages today. Many families are dual income, time poor and still struggle to put a good meal together every night. The easy option is those "Quick Service Restaurants" (QSR`s) like McDonalds, Kentucky and Domino`s etc; no cooking and in most cases delivered to your door. Not a healthy or fresh alternative but serves a purpose.
Look at how the retail supermarkets are taking on the independent butchers with their expanding range of value add fresh and cooked meats. It is popular, if you see the majors doing something it has been tested in trial stores and obviously they see an opportunity, however they cannot make it themselves, butchers have the advantage of pushing the "Freshly made" and "Made In store or Homemade" story when selling these products.
Value adding is still very popular in butcher shops, many customers are still looking for that easy meal solution. If you want to dip a toe in the water, you do not have to make anything too fancy when you start. Look at sausage rolls, simple and easy to make and a "cheap and cheerful" family favourite in many Aussie homes for snacks or dinner. You can make them a variety of sizes, short snack/kids size or longer ones.
You can make them out of your popular sausage mixes, or stick to the plain version. Look at adding some bread crumbs, even a flavoured breadcrumb mix like the good old sage & onion to the mix to make the meat eat a little softer but don’t go overboard otherwise they end up quite dense and flavourless.
Alternatively, my favourites are Empanadas, you can buy empanada clams online or in some kitchen/home stores, they are cheap and can make you a lot of money. If you use one of the smaller clams, you can only put approx 30 - 40 grams of flavoured mince inside these and they are quick to cook, do the math/costings $$$. Make sure you tell your customers to egg wash them prior to cooking to make the pastry golden.
I have seen some brilliant value add displays and ideas on my travels around the states, some butchers are extremely talented artists at value adding, it gives your business a point of difference. If you are looking at cooking, ensure you check with your state/local Food Safety Authority.
- Buy the bulk rolls of pastry from your dry goods suppliers to keep costs down.
- When producing pastries make all pastries on a clean dry cutting board to avoid cross contamination and discolouration of the pastry.
- Keep the blue plastic on the products for as long as possible, even when displaying.
- Special packaging like sandwich or roll clams to pack the products in so they arrive home in the same way they left your shop, again check with your dry goods supplier they often have a range of products.
- Designate a time each week; that is your value added production time.
- Pastries freeze well, so if you have the time make some extras and freeze them.
If you want to try pastries there are some brilliant beef and lamb recipe ideas available for sausage rolls, empanadas, strudels and a range of other lines in the Value Added section of the Australian Butchers Guild website.
Social Media & Websites
Many butchers use social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram to communicate with their customers. Telling the stories about what they have on offer for the day/week, new products, new employees even investments they have made to enhance their businesses like fit outs, new machinery etc and they do it professionally. Then others tend to go off the rails a bit using social media to show some very weird acts that go on in their stores forgetting the reason why they set out to use social media in the first place.
Some butchers forget that their customers and potentially “new customers” follow them and look at their pages for inspiration and ideas for that quick and easy meal solution or something special they can cook up for their family or friends. Instead of being inspired to go and buy something, they are horrified at some of the antics that go on and the language used in some of the posts. Then there are those “key board warriors” who post negative things on other industry pages, guess what, these pages are not private pages in most cases, your customers may be following these pages as well or show up as a notification that “Fred has posted a comment on …. page”. Imagine how they would feel seeing some of the derogative remarks that are directed towards fellow butchers or customers about things like loyalty.
A lot of what I am seeing lately is a lack of positive comments and encouragement to the younger people who have entered the trade, who are proud of their first rolled roast or tray of lamb cutlets. These apprentices are proud of what they have done and encouragement goes a long way, we have a huge shortage of apprentices coming through and no wonder why when all some want to do is criticise. Remember these people are the future of our industry and without them coming through the ranks, butchers will be even harder to find. Be positive and sensitive to the people who may not be as skilled or have the experience or knowledge as you; offer constructive, supportive advice.
It is so important to avoid being caught up in the moment…. Okay….. You may feel the need to vent your anger from time to time, or feel that we have been let down, be careful and think twice before you post or comment on it, or do what I do, type out the response, sit on it for 5 minutes, think about the possible repercussions and then delete it! Remember these comments are out there forever!
Use social media platforms to engage with customers or your target markets, think about who may see your posts and what can you put up to encourage them to shop with you. We see some fantastic photography from butchers, nice clean meat shots and well-presented videos and very proud of what they do. Social media can be an effective tool when used correctly however if you want to encourage customers to shop with you create a website and use social media to direct them to it to order.
Building a websites is probably outside of a lot of our comfort zones, myself included. If you do some research, look at some of the online website builders, you should get an estimate of what kind of website you need and an approximate cost. You will need to factor in the cost of keeping the website updated to keep your customers engaged and you can still use social pages for that as well, so if you haven’t; give yourself a marketing budget each year and use it for that. I remember talking with a very successful butcher in Victoria about 10 years ago, on a Red Meat Networking Club tour, he told me he puts aside $40K a year for marketing, I questioned, “that was a lot of money how can you afford that?” His response was, “I have a lot of money invested in my business, I cannot I afford not too”, and yes, he is still thriving in business today.
The events of the past 18 months have changed the way many shoppers purchase everything. You would have been affected as well in your own shopping habits. The retail chains have seen a huge increase in online ordering, however even though their fresh meat sales are strong there are still queues outside independent retail butcher shops around Australia.
Why not look at making the shop a little easier? Offer an online ordering service or some are offering a click or call and collect service. The less time shoppers spend in busy supermarkets the safer they are feeling and less likely to catch something they do not want.
If you are having trouble finding content to post on your social pages and or website there are many available online. Some images are free and some can only be used if you purchase subscriptions from sites like Getty Images, iStock, Dreamtime etc.
Be careful if you are downloading someone else’s work and if you are, make sure you get their permission in writing so you are covered. If you are paying to have images taken using a photographer be sure the agreement states that you will own them outright, so you can continue to use them anywhere you like.
If you are taking your own photos or video`s look at what can be seen in the background. Use clean trays, dishes or wooden cutting boards and utensils to present and style the meat, be aware of what is in the background of your photo, do not take photos on a dirty stained bench top with coffee mugs in the background, be professional. Make sure the product looks fresh (a light spray of oil can make the meat pop) meat is trimmed and use fresh garnish as required, avoid shadows over the image and any signage is clean and easy to read.
If you are taking photos that include someone from your team or their hands are in the shot, make sure their shirt and aprons are clean and maybe have them wear rubber gloves to present meat when doing a close up. Take photos of staff from the waist up, butchers boots are not the most attractive piece of PPE especially with lumps of fat stuck to them.
Raw or cooked shots?
What are you trying to sell your customers? Are you trying to promote a meal idea like a roast, casserole or stir-fry? Look at cooked images rather than raw, cooked images offer inspiration, memories and comfort where as a raw product does not. Raw images are more suitable for an order form on your website. Keep the raw images on a consistent background. You can use wooden cutting boards, plastic boards, plates, dishes bowls or even use new laminated or vinyl floorboard as a background, some of these have a cool grain and colour.
Stocks & Broths
Winter has well and truly set in, customers always look for those winter warmer meals and comfort foods and soups are a favourite in many households (especially mine)
Stocks and Broths are very popular, in particular broths. If you have the time and product maybe look at making your own version, it is popular; I was in my local supermarket the other week and I noticed a shopper clearing the shelves of an “all natural” broth that was on special for $8.00 per 500ml, she bought the whole shelf full!
It is easy to make, takes very little effort, and is very profitable and overall a healthy homemade option for your customers.
If your finding you have a bit of excess trim; not so much as lean mince or sausage trim, which you are possibly scratching around to find that, (if it is going anything like last year, depending on the states you are all in) but any bones (marrow being the best) chuck bones and even rib bones, anything will do even sinew and cartilage (these add a gelatinous texture once they melt down). Fire up the copper or large casserole pots and make yourself some homemade stock or broth.
There is not a great deal of difference between stock and broth, the only difference is broth is made from meat and vegetables and stock is made from bones and vegetables. The bones will make a thicker stock whereas the meat and vegetables make a thinner broth that has more flavour.
The secret for both is to brown off the meat and or bones, the more caramelisation you can get the stronger beefy the flavour. Roughly chop the vege’s (carrots, onions, celery) add your water and simmer away for a several hours, the longer it simmers the deeper the flavour. Remove the bones and strain the liquid through a cheesecloth and chill before either putting it into containers to sell it in liquid form or freeze it.
Make sure you tell your customers that it is made fresh in your premises. If you are in doubt about any food safety regulations make sure you contact your local regulatory body before you start.
I have to say I love a great beef burger! Juicy and full of flavour squeezed inside a freshly baked burger roll with fresh salad, pickles and plenty of my favourite Thai Sriracha sauce, its making my mouth water right now!
I love the different flavours and textures that butchers are creating when it comes to judging the butchers beef burger competitions at the AMIC Sausage King competitions. I still remember a burger I sampled at a Burger comp in Victoria a few years ago and it was a simple coarse grind brisket burger with salt and pepper, I could taste the brisket and the seasoning was spot on. There are some great butchers doing some amazing things and take great pride when creating these juicy and tasty bread roll fillers.
What type of beef cuts do you have in your burger? Most would be using trim, fresh or frozen, from 70cl to 95cl, a mix of various beef cuts from the carcass and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, after all that’s what you are getting from the local burger restaurants.
Why not call out what is in your burgers or meatballs and raise the profile of the humble beef burger. Blend cuts like chuck and short rib or brisket and chuck, or even some of the butt cuts like topside and knuckle, this gives you an opportunity to get a premium price because you are using different cuts, these beef cuts all have different attributes, either texture and or flavour.
Try wrapping them individually, have some beef burger stickers made up that tells the story of what is inside the wrapper i.e. “Chuck and Short Rib” Beef Burger or for a bit of fun “Knuckle Burger” or “Top Burger”. Use your imagination to get the customers to notice and do not forget your shop name this will give you that point of difference.
Many butchers have a smoke house in their shops, that lie idle for a lot of the time or a smoker at home, try cold smoking some burgers, natural wood smoke has a far superior flavour than a smokey flavoured liquid spritz that burns off once it hits the hot plate or grill. Keep the temperature as low as possible and chill before vacuum packing.
Vacuum packaging the smoked burgers for your customers will retain the natural smoke flavour and enable you to freeze them for a few months without losing and of the flavour.
Butcher? Apprentice? Chef?
More state lockdowns and lockouts appear to be the new norm for Australians. Butchers have been given an excellent opportunity to get back on your feet and increase butchers market share of the fresh meat trade and on the other side the foodservice sector have been crippled by the worldwide pandemic.
There are many talented chefs currently pondering what the future will bring for them and how uncertain times will be moving forward.
If you are one of the fortunate butchers who have been able to grow and maintain your business and wondering how you can sustain the long hours, you have been doing due to labour shortages in the trade there may be an unseen benefit.
If you have not been able to find a young apprentice butcher, have you thought about employing either a chef or a mature aged apprentice, someone with food skills. There could be quite a number of chefs around who may be an asset to your business.
A chefs life is a hard one, some of them have to work evenings, breakfasts, lunches or all meals, weekends just like a butcher, but a split shift would be something I certainly would not like.
Have you looked at employing a chef to join your team? They are used to working long hours, most have some meat knowledge, good knife skills, good hygiene and above all cooking knowledge, they can give your customers cooking tips and suggestions of what else will go with their meals. Many of these tradesmen and women can hit the ground running then you will need to invest time teaching them the rest of the trade.
A chef can be an asset to your business. Add value to your range of fresh value added products (pastries, marinades, stir fry’s, wet dishes etc), as well as give you some great ideas for a variety of flavours and combinations for your sausage and burger or meatball trade, or even branch out into an instore-cooked range of meat products.
Many butchers have fully qualified chefs who have also completed their butchery apprenticeship working for them. These people can make your life so much easier and bring a lot of value to your business. They are the experts at reducing waste in your business by utilizing everything right down to the fat.
The shops I have seen that employ a chef are all thriving; the shops do not smell of fresh meat or hypo anymore, mouth-watering aromas of cooked foods hit you as you enter the shop. A great range of cooked and/or raw products displayed in the window, stylish window displays using different garnishes rather than curly leaf parsley and fruit.