|Brattleboro Food Co-op Focus on the Deli Department|
by Andee Bingham
The Co-op’s Deli Department is settling back into relatively calmer days after a bustling holiday season. Perhaps your own holiday meals were enhanced by an entrée, side, or pie made in-store from fresh seasonal ingredients.
Like every department at the Co-op, the culinary team is guided by a set of principles. “We strive to provide quality products with excellent service,” says Greg. “On the deli line we are the faces and voices of the department. We have a responsibility to provide our customers with accurate information regarding our food.” To meet this goal of quality products and excellent service, the deli pays close attention to customer input as well as strives to create an encouraging learning environment which will benefit both the employees and customers. “When I first came to the department,” reflects Dawn Hastings, culinary manager, “I was struck by the broad-line talents and professionalism of the deli team. I quickly came to realize that it is drawn from the many years of experience that they have in the food-service industry. My research revealed that the combined experience of our current staff is more than 275 years! That’s more than a quarter of a millennium! It is that experience that allows us to offer creative, unprocessed, tasteful dishes that are exclusive to our deli department.”
The deli was started over 20 years ago as a way to make the store more full service. Today, the crew focuses on home meal replacement – providing fresh, high quality, and nutritious food for people on the go. “In the five or so years that I have worked here, the variety of dishes that we offer has grown a lot,” says Luke, deli cook. “I also think the quality has risen.” In recent years, the focus has shifted to feature more local, seasonal, and organic foods. Though the deli now buys far more raw ingredients and avoids over-processed foods, Luke reflects that the deli’s relationship with vendors hasn’t changed much since he has worked here. “But that’s a good thing – we offer a stable and reliable source of income for them.” as well as contributing to the local economy.
It can sometimes be a challenge to manage the growing customer base, but the Deli Department stays grounded by the many rewarding interactions with customers. “The familiarity we achieve with many of our customers is an enjoyable part of the job” says Greg. “In general, making a meaningful connection with each customer is rewarding. They should leave with the sense that we appreciate their patronage.” They are also grounded by each other and thrive in a supportive atmosphere that is based on teamwork, respect, and friendship. “We have a good crew that works well together,” says Luke. “I have fun at work and feel like my cooking skills are always improving.” Beth, also a cook, loves the fact that her input is valued. “My ideas are listened to and used if they have merit. I get to be creative, and that is what feeds me.”
The Deli Department aims to be a thriving eatery in the hub of downtown Brattleboro. Dawn notes that the new store will provide us with the facility and equipment in which we can expand our line of products. “This is great,” she says, “as we have outgrown our current space. Artisanal pizzas and rotisserie chickens will be two new lines that our customers can look forward to in the coming year.” Greg says: “I hope that, as we grow, we will never lose sight of the value of each employee, that we maintain a resolve to treat them with genuine respect, and acknowledge their contributions and personal worth." Despite the growth that the Co-op will be undergoing in the coming year– especially in the deli, which will be expanding more than any other department–we can rest assured that the awareness and commitment held by our staff will ensure that we maintain the “small town” feel that helps to make our Co-op so special.