CANDICE Fonseca has a simple philosophy when it comes to running a successful deli: “It needs to incorporate a restaurant, or at the very least some space for dining,” she says.
“The reason for this is because people like to taste the food they are buying which is especially true in those places where there isn’t an existing deli culture so it requires a change of attitude by customers.”
Candice should know. She is the dynamic driving force behind the highly successful Delifonseca in Stanley Street, Liverpool, which has become something of an institution in the city as well as winning a string of awards since it opened only five years ago.
It was a brave move for more reasons than one – not only was this her first venture outside the city centre, but the site itself was previously occupied by an up-market deli which had ceased trading and before that a Harry Ramsden’s outlet which closed in 2005.
And, of course, there was also the recession.
“I have to admit I wasn’t sure how the Dockside site would fare,” says Candice. “But I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by the level of business achieved over the past year.
“This is mainly a residential area with many luxury flats created out of the former dock buildings so there is an indigenous customer base.
“But we also get plenty who make a special trip to the dock which proves that people do take the convenience of cars seriously. The deli does particularly well on Fridays and Saturdays.”
And being next door to a Travelodge hasn’t done any harm either. The coincidence provided Candice with an opportunity to open the restaurant for breakfast, a move that has also become popular with local residents.
An additional attraction at the site is a large branch of Brough’s, the award-winning Liverpool butchers. The restaurant has about 70 covers plus eight outside tables.
Occupying a total of 435 square metres, the Dockside outlet is some three times larger than the first Delifonseca in Liverpool city centre (144 square metres) which has a 50-cover restaurant.
From its opening in Stanley Street in 2006, Candice was fortunate to recruit the renowned Liverpool chef Martin Cooper who who now runs the kitchen at the Dockside site while assistant head chef Saul O’Reilly has taken over at Stanley Street.
Starters include a huge choice of fresh soups and usually a dozen mains such as herby fishcakes with cherry tomato chutney, free-range chicken risotto, roast leg of Herdwick mutton, sausages and colcannon, and the Delifonseca “signature dish” of lentil and potato moussaka.
A significant development (fortuitous as it turns out) has been the introduction of an outside catering service.
“This was a bit of an after-thought but over the years it has grown and now accounts for 20 per cent of our turnover,” says Candice. “This has compensated for the downturn in the deli and restaurant business during the past 18 months.”
Very wisely, Delifonseca focuses on its core strengths when it comes to outside catering which includes corporate events and boardroom lunches are becoming increasingly popular.
“We don’t want to compete with other caterers who offer the full range of outside meals,” she says. “We specialise in simple hot and cold buffets and canapés featuring the food which can be purchased in our shops.”
These include combinations such as aubergine pate and roasted courgette on Crostini, Thai fishcakes with sweet chilli jam, and rare roast beef with mini Yorkshire Pudding, horseradish and watercress.
They have also recently introduced high quality bespoke hampers and a range of corporate gifts.
Another innovative initiative has been the launch of a Residents’ Club based at Stanley Street in a bid to bring together the local community.
For £10 per person per event, guests can enjoy a host of themed evenings, with the first six month schedule including book and film club nights, a sugar craft evening and other food and wine based events.
Danielle Youds, restaurant manager and host of the Residents’ Club, says: “Over the years, many city residents have used Delifonseca literally as their ‘kitchen’, as they either eat here in the restaurant, buy pre-prepared meals or source the ingredients to create meals in the their own kitchens.
“Essentially, we have re-focused back to what inspired the opening of Delifonseca in the first place – creating a true neighbourhood delicatessen and restaurant.”
If any proof was needed of the success Delifonseca has achieved in Liverpool you only have to look at the many prestigious prizes it has won including:
The Customer Awards for Service (Best Waiter 2008 and 2009), Best Small Food Business in the North West 2009, Editor’s Choice Best Value Restaurant in the UK 2010 by The Good Food Guide and being regularly listed in the Independent newspaper’s top 50 delis in the country.