Episode #4 Transcriptions: Dublin Meat Co. & Fit Foods with Gillian Clarke


Yvonne Morgan, Gillian Clarke

Yvonne Morgan 00:00

Hello and welcome back to Flipdish Takeaways, where we bring you excerpts from the restaurant and hospitality industry from around the world. I'm your host, Yvonne Morgan. In this episode, we talked to Gillian Clarke from the Dublin Meat Company. She tells us about the journey of the company from a family run butcher to developing their Fit Foods brand. As she says, the mantra of the Fit Foods range is to "live well and eat well. And this is vital when deciding which new meals and products they present to their customers. We chat about the importance of customer feedback for the company, their venture into online delivery, and their most recent expansion into Lidl stores. Gillian, it's it's a pleasure to meet you. And and thanks for joining us. I would love to just if you don't mind start off we have a global audience who may or may not know as much about Dublin Meat Company as we do. So I'd love just for our audience if you can tell us a little bit about the Dublin Meat Company and how the business began.

Gillian Clarke 01:00

Well Dublin Meat Company is a family-run business. It's the O'Leary family. It started off with the dad, Paddy who still pops in every few days just to keep an eye on all the young ones, that we’re doing, you know a good job. The dad was the original butcher in a shopping centre in Dublin in the, kind of, 70s and 80s. And obviously the first kind of recession came in Ireland and businesses were hit very hard. Paddy kind of came to the realisation that rents in. sort of Main Street, High Street locations and shopping mall and shopping centre locations were crippling. So he was the first butcher in Dublin really to set up what was known as kind of a factory outlet butcher shop which meant that he took the shop out of the High Street, out of the shopping centre and he set up his shop in the Lidl business park, not far from where he was but very much of a High Street location and he brought his, his customers with him. Due to the reduction of kind of rents and overheads he was able to pass savings on to the customers at a time in Dublin when it was really needed. So they've really been from the get go, of a business that kind of is, is in front of what's happening in the market and very agile and able to pivot and see kind of you know what the customer wants and what the customer needs. So that was the first kind of Dublin Meat Company shop and they then set up five, and we're now at six different locations. What happened I suppose maybe about five years ago was the guy's, the two boys, the two younger brothers took the business over as Paddy was retiring. David looks after the food side, the recipes, the Food Innovation and Brian looks after the business side. They saw a huge kind of change in customers' eating behaviours they were looking for convenience they were looking for you know quality but you know people just weren't sitting down and cooking anymore everybody was really on the go and people wanted, there was much much more of a kind of a health focus in the market so that's when they developed the kind of sub brand which was Fit Foods and Fit Foods was -

Yvonne Morgan 03:08

When was, sorry Gillian, when was Fit Foods kind of when did that idea, they start discussing that idea?

Gillian Clarke 03:16

It was probably around 2010, so it was very much at the start of, you know, as I said people were busy commuting, out and about, starting to do, you know, you know gym classes in the evening, all of that sort of stuff and wanted, we're no longer sitting down and you know, thinking "right, what's for dinner today? I need to get my chicken and my meat, and my veg" and all the rest. It was all about convenience, but good quality and tasty food and that's been something that we've never compromised at Dublin Meat Company. is the taste of everything, but also retaining that value message. So Fit Foods has really become the forefront of the brands and it's really how people discover us. And from a marketing perspective, we don't necessarily compete as a butcher, we don't want to go up against the big grocery chains, the big stores because we would simply get swallowed up in the market. So Fit Foods is how we kind of get our message out there and that we have this amazing range of healthy ready meals, protein pots, soups, snacks, wherever you are in your day we have something good and nutritious for you to eat. People come to the brand that way and then they see, oh my goodness, they have great steaks, they have great family favourites in our two for 10 range. And then that's how we kind of build and retain the business. But really, then I was brought on about two and a half years ago, the guys had started doing online delivery and that's really when the business became an e-commerce business. So we would still have very much our bricks and mortar local butcher shop, but the online business would be nearly probably 60% Fit Food ready meals and Fit Foods range now with everything you would know from your local butcher so, the e-commerce side of things has just blown up in the last few years and obviously with the pandemic, and people staying home as well. It's been, it's been amazing. It's been an amazing ride.

Yvonne Morgan 05:09

Can you tell me a little bit about your role specifically at Dublin Meat Company?

Gillian Clarke 05:13

So I started in Dublin Meat Company about two and a half years ago. When I met Brian, the two brands were kind of working alongside each other. So we had the Dublin Meat Company brand, and the Fit Foods brand and his brief to me was, I want somebody that will come in and make us a complete brand all in one. And for me, as a marketeer, that was like, the dream. And again, as I said, because we're a small company, there's no hierarchy, there's no politics, it was literally, you know, you're the marketer, you're the expert in marketing, you tell us what to do. We're the butchers, we're the food side of things. As Brian always says, "you drive that bus". And so for me, and I would have come from, you know, big brands, where there's, you know, multilayers, and board meetings, customer research, and, you know, all of this sort of thing, to work in that kind of environment has been so fun and so refreshing, terrifying, because, you know, it's all on you. but just have been, been really, really great. So I do everything from the social media, to digital side of things, customer service, the packaging, liaising with the Brand Partner, coming up with any collateral that we would have, design, creative, all of that sort of thing. So it's really great.

Yvonne Morgan 06:26

Wow, what a great opportunity.

Gillian Clarke 06:27

It's amazing. I will also say as well, the guys, again, being a family business have been amazing to work with as, how will I describe this? So I love my job, but I also have two small kids, and when, again, when the pandemic came, and when I met Brian, Brian has a young family of his own, I have one little kid tapping me here. He said to me, "you know what? I don't care if you work on the roof, I don't care what hours you work as long as the results are coming through." So the flexibility he has given me as a woman in business has been incredible. And it's so rare. And as I said, they're a family business. So they get families, but they're also a business. So you know, to have that kind of commercial opportunity as a marketeer. But also the support as known that you also have a life outside of work, has been fantastic.

Yvonne Morgan 07:17

Absolutely. The commercial opportunity, like you said, the autonomy to kind of move and grow the business and evolve and provide, you know, bring your own ideas to the table is excellent. So -

Gillian Clarke 07:29

I'll give you just a little anecdote just to tell you the way Dublin Meat Company works, when we, when I started, they had two logos, the Fit Foods logo, and a Dublin Meat Company logo. And I was thinking, how am I going to operate with these two logos in marketing? You know, so I created a new logo, where it combines the two and I put it up on our WhatsApp group and I got four thumbs up, and that was it done, logo done, and I'm thinking, how easy was that? And that's the way it should be, so, yeah.

Yvonne Morgan

Absolutely, like you said, if you think about working in a big organization, there’s no way. It would take months to get across the line. Yeah, yeah, as a, as a marketeer myself, I know how that goes.

Gillian Clarke 08:07

You feel the pain.

Yvonne Morgan 08:08

Yeah, absolutely. Can you tell me a bit about the, the Fit Foods range, and if there was any testing, or how you, how you kind of decided on what your offering would be within the Fit Foods range?

Gillian Clarke 08:23

So the mantra of the Fit Foods range is to "eat well, and live well." So the, there's kind of a few pillars that we always focus on, when we are creating a new meal, or a new product to the range. It's generally low calorie or macro-friendly. So whether you're maybe on a slimming journey, or whether you're, you know, working out, there's different meals in the range that would suit you, depending on what your dietary requirements are. We have a big focus as well on gluten free. So we have 12 meals and 10 of them are gluten free. We're a really small team. So we don't have, like, a massive test kitchen or consumer panels or anything like that. It's literally ourselves, our friends and our family when we get, get, you know, kind of, the test batches in, and we'll know very quickly whether it'll work or whether it won't work. So we're actually in the middle of, we've got a couple of new products coming out in September. So it's literally that moment where we're just testing, testing, testing and our customers tell us really quickly whether they love it or don't love it. So that's kind of the way we go. As I said, small team, there's me, the two boys, an area manager, a logistics manager, and then obviously the butchers as well will definitely tell you whether it will work or not. But a very small team, and a very small kind of, tight process that we run.

Yvonne Morgan 09:41

Wow, I didn't know that, what a kind of, tight ship you were running. So that's, kudos to you for everything that you're doing within the small team that you have. Are there any considerations that you take when you decide on adding something to your offering, because of, let's say the size of the business or the size of the team?

Gillian Clarke 10:00

So the team is small, but we work with production partners. So we have two main factory partners who help us on the Fit Foods ready meals. And one of the big I suppose successes that we had this year was that we went into Lidl in Ireland as a special at Christmas time. And obviously going from our own shops and online business to providing or selling into Lidl was a huge increase in you know, production capacity. So we now work with two factory partners that work really tightly together and our, our, I suppose, main focus is that they have scalability, and that quality control and as I said, you know, tastes and all of that remains consistent throughout. So that has been really important for us and we've worked really hard over the last 12 months to make sure that we have that capacity in there, because the brand is in exponential growth and we want to make sure that we can continue that. You don't want to get to the stage where a factory says "I'm at capacity now, I can't produce anymore." So we have those kind of pillars in place. And then on the butcher side of things we have our, our factory at the back of the shop in Swords and that's where the guys produce overnight. All of our fresh meats, our mince, our burgers, all of that is made in-house and it's made fresh every night. And again in the middle of the pandemic, what we did was we overtook the property next door to us, we extend the factory facilities. So again we have potential for growth and that side of the business as well which is a great place to be in.

Yvonne Morgan 11:27

Absolutely, and just speaking about growth, you mentioned your distribution or presence in Lidl. Can you tell me a bit about how you took the decision to build your brand and build your presence within little.

Gillian Clarke 11:44

It was actually Lidl approached us. We were approached by several different, of the grocery retailers and I have to admit when the opportunity came across the desk first, we were nervous because we were thinking, "are we going to cannibalise our brand here? Are we basically handing over the keys to the kingdom? :like is it the right decision for us?" And we sat again as a small team and we really thrashed it through and at the time we were only selling our products and delivering our products within Dublin. It, actually all the pieces just fell together because it was at the start, actually it was, it was in December, so it was about six months into the pandemic. And what had happened in Ireland was, an awful lot of people who lived in Dublin had moved home because of lockdown and they were back, you know, in their family homes and they couldn't get, kind of, healthy lunch or dinner options. You know you were kind of, again going back to the whole, either home cooking or you know, your Domino's delivery or and there was a real appetite there people were saying we can't get your products outside of Dublin. We didn't have the logistics network at the time to deliver nationwide. So we thought you know what, this is actually going to do an amazing job for us and getting the brand outside of Dublin. So we went in as a special, and the way Lidl is, they take you on for basically a month and off the back of the success or failure is whether you're listed as a, as a permanent product or not. So we went in as a special. It was a few days after Christmas, it was like the 27th of December and we were thinking you know, and people would still be in Christmas mode. And it was incredible. It was like, you know where they have the egg chairs in the middle aisle and everybody's like frantically queuing outside Lidl? It was like that outside of Dublin, in that people were literally going into the Lidl store waiting for the Fit Foods meals to be put into the fridge and taking like 30 of them and going. So it was the success of it was, was unparalleled in the convenience range within Lidl. So it kind of took us all by surprise. But, they have been a fantastic partner. And they've given us you know, great support. And it's been great for visibility of the brand. And now off the back of it, that we know that the demand is there nationwide, and we now deliver the full range nationwide. One of the considerations that we made was always to retain some of the products exclusive to ourselves. So Lidl will only ever have a selection of the meals. So if you want the full range, you will come back to Dublin Meat Company and you will be able to get the ancillary products, and the butchery products, and the great steaks and all of the rest of that, kind of the way we have partnered with Lidl but protected our own market at the same time.

Yvonne Morgan 14:20

Very smart. And can you tell me a little bit about what you, if you can without giving away any trade secrets, which items did you choose to offer in Lidl versus what you decided to kind of, keep exclusive to your own, let's say online distribution or your own distribution, and why you made those decisions?

Gillian Clarke 14:44

So Lidl will kind of, because of their size and nature, they will sort of tell you what they want and there's a certain element of negotiation, but they took our top sellers, which was maybe the top five or six meals, but we still had another six meals in our portfolio. They didn't take the protein pots, they didn't take the soups, and the other thing that we have that really goes in our advantage is we sell weekly bundles online, and this has proven really, really successful for us so pre-pandemic, people would get them delivered to their office and now obviously people working from home get them delivered on a, they order them on a Sunday night for a Monday morning and you can pick various different bundles But it includes everything for your week, so what would be your ready meals, maybe you, your snacks, your lunches, all of that sorts of thing, for 30 euros. So it's again the convenience is the reason that the customers will come back to us. You'll always get customers, you know, going to Lidl, popping it in their weekly shop but if you want to kind of get the value, the real value and the bundles, you'll, you'll come back to us so that was kind of how we played us to kind of keep us with a, with a unique edge that would bring people back to Dublin Meat Company all the time.

Yvonne Morgan 15:53

And was there any response from your, your customers who you know, they had been your original customer and then they saw you distributing in Lidl, would they go to Lidl? Or were you, did you find that they were still coming to you?

Gillian Clarke 16:05

Oh my god, it just blew up on social media. It was like, I'll never forget it, on the 27th of December thinking like "oh, it's Christmas now we've got over like turkey season it's gonna calm down," and it just blew up. First of all, it was people you know, tagging Lidl but tagging us as well, which I thought was really interesting because it meant that customers have the affinity with us as the brand as opposed to Lidl necessarily but they were tagging both of us which was great, saying "I can't believe it, I've moved out of Dublin, and I can finally get my Fit Foods." And we'd say, then reply with "Amazing but we're gonna start delivering nationwide in the next couple of months follow us, you know, for the information launch." So it was just, it was it was as well what was great was that it was people who discovered the brand, and to go into Lidl and buy one or two of the meals, it's an easy sell to see, "actually, do I like it?" Rather than going and straightaway spending 30 euros or 45 euros on a weekly bundle, so it was a great introduction kind of, minimum risk to the brand and people were saying "actually, no, I love it. I've had the five meals now for maybe two weeks. I'm a bit tired of the five flavours, I see you guys have extra flavours, so I'm going to start ordering from you." And then I have to say the guys in our logistics department, they just do such an amazing job with delivery and I'm not blowing our own trumpet, but I really feel it's best in class delivery that we offer. So people are just thinking, "God, it's so easy. It's so convenient." And you know, it's just one click, and you're kind of done. So yeah, people that was in kind of two ways, it was people kind of outside of Dublin went to Lidl to buy it, who knew about it. And then people who didn't know about it, tried it in Lidl and then came back to us as their new customers. So it's just been fantastic.

Yvonne Morgan 17:40

That's great. And you've been able to kind of benefit from the relationship with Lidl, and also maintain your own, your own loyal customers.

Gillian Clarke 17:49

Exactly. Yeah.

Yvonne Morgan 17:50

And you, you mentioned your delivery service which I wanted to touch on. I know that this is somewhat new, which is your online delivery for, for your business. How did you go about setting this up? How is it working? If you could share a little bit with our listeners on, on that that would be great.

Gillian Clarke 18:09

Yeah, we've been doing online deliveries now for probably three or four years, we started out as everybody probably does, in using an outside partner as the delivery partner. And it was, it was fine. It was, it worked fine for when we were on very, very small numbers. But as we grew and grew, we realised that when you work with an outside delivery partner, you really, once your product leaves your shop or your factory, you've lost all control of the journey. So the pandemic came, and obviously we had, we had doubled each year, the delivery business ourselves but then the pandemic came and it went absolutely stratospheric. To the point that we actually didn't think that we were going to be able to fulfil the delivery demand. Now to be, just to explain to you how it works with Dublin Meat company, you can select a day that your delivery will come and also a delivery window. So it's really, it's not like that you're waiting, like, for a DPD delivery, and it might come at some stage throughout the day and you'll get a text message an hour before. When you book with us, we tell you what day you're going to get it and you select what window suits you, and we wanted to be able to maintain that service. So what we actually did at the very start of the pandemic was we switched off for a day or two we just said guys, like, the shops are open, we're essential retail but we have to make sure we can stand over the delivery and we can stand over the service. And we switched back on, you know, after we, sort of, did a huge amount of work behind the scenes after two days and we've maintained that next day delivery in Dublin throughout. What we did then was, we brought in a really experienced logistics manager. We invested in a logistics platform which hooks straight into Flipdish, so the two, the Flipdish guys were amazing. The, the tech guys, making sure that the two systems speak to each other. So as soon as the order comes through on Flipdish, it pings across to our logistics system. And that logistics system actually maps out routes and everything for our drivers. We invested in refrigerated vans, we invested in our own drivers, we branded up the vans, and we basically brought it all in-house. The delivery system that we use is fantastic. You get a ping when your driver's on the way with a tracking map. So you can see, kind of, how far away he is, you get a link where you can contact your driver in case you're going to be out. You get a link to fill in a little survey, which has been absolutely amazing for customer insight for us to tell us how we're doing. How was the delivery? How was the online journey? What do you think the product? Have you any suggestions for us? That has just been a mine of information. So that was the Dublin side, and then again, as I said off the back of Lidl, we realised there actually is demand outside of Dublin for delivery, we dipped our toe in to using another delivery partner. Because we thought, do you know what, cause taking on nationwide delivery is a huge, huge undertaking. So we did it for about a month with an external delivery partner and again, we just lost control of it and the quality that the product was arriving in, we were actually creating a cottage industry of customer service issues, which was just dreadful. So again, we bit the bullet, and we brought it back in-house and we now deliver nationwide with our own drivers, our own refrigerated vans throughout the Republic of Ireland. So it's just been, it's just been great. And all of those customer service issues have disappeared, because it's our own drivers handling our products with care, chatting to the customers, letting them know about new things that are in the pipeline. And it's, yeah, it's great. So we're big fans of keeping it all in-house.

Yvonne Morgan 18:25

I'm sure many of our listeners gonna be knocking on your door asking you more about this delivery, the delivery that you've set up, because I know it's proven to be one of the most challenging aspects of many hospitality businesses, especially today. So it sounds it sounds like you've really cracked it,

Gillian Clarke 22:02

I have to say it was, it was that leap of faith, you had to take at the start, and you did realise that it was going to have an impact on the structure of your business internally. And but like we run a, as I said, a Survey Monkey survey after every delivery, and we consistently track 4.9 stars out of five, and that's been across the last 18 months. So I would highly recommend if you can do it, do it, and own it. Because you know, if your product is good, your service is good, your delivery is good, and your customer service will be good, you're sort of ticking all of the pillars

Yvonne Morgan 22:33

Absolutely. And I'm sure the customers are delighted to know that you want to hear back from them as well. And you're you have a loyal customer base. So they're most likely pretty forthcoming in giving feedback to help you, you grow your business as well.

Gillian Clarke 22:50

Absolutely. They're there, it's just a, they tell us what they want in the range, they tell us what they want in the food, they tell us what they want, you know, in the delivery and the packaging, everything so it's, don't be afraid of your customers. They're, they're absolutely gold mines if you can, you know create that line of communication with them.

Yvonne Morgan 23:10

Great, and speaking of growing your business, I learned that you recently also started installing Fit Foods vending machines into various businesses. Where did this idea come from? And what sort of products can customers look to seeing in the vending machines?

Gillian Clarke 23:29

So probably the worst time of the century to set up an office vending business, the world shut down. But it was, it was flying pre-pandemic and actually we've seen it pick back up again, which has been marvelous, so it was actually Brian our owner was away on a, on a stag party and coming home through Germany and saw these vending machines in the airports in Germany and they were vending ready meals and healthy snacks. In Ireland, vending machines tend to be quite unhealthy, they tend to be sweets, chocolate, crisps, fizzy drinks, you might get one or two rows of, you know, healthy, maybe granola bars that kind of thing. But as a whole it wasn't there as a, as an opportunity. So again, that's the kind of, the culture in Dublin Meat Company is like let's give it a go. Let's give it our all, let's try it, and because we're small and agile, we can pivot like that. So we bought and partnered with a vending company and literally Brian and I went out knocking on doors and we created a really nice brochure which explains what we were about, explains the product range that you can get, so that the vending machines are full of the Fit Foods ready meals, they have the soups, they have the protein pots and they have some of the healthy snacks and breakfast grains in it as well. We, like it was a huge learning for us like, initially we went out with the, you know Dublin is a huge tech ground so like, there's the Facebooks and the Googles and all of that here and you think that that's the Mecca, but very quickly you are learned that they have their own canteens, they have their own catering partners, all of the rest Where you’re target market really is, is for companies with around maybe 100 people in it that have a kettle and a microwave and everybody's either bringing in leftovers from the night before or spending a fortune on, you know expensive sandwiches and things like that at lunchtime that are, you know not good for you. So we've got into hospitals, we've got into a lot of the police stations have them where there’s people on shift work and you know there's not necessarily again places to go for dinner at three o'clock in the morning and it was, and it's been absolutely a huge success so we've noticed, we're still being encouraged to work from home in Ireland but we have seen like a return to the office for a lot of companies and, and again because of social distancing and things like that like you don't want to be spending you know, an hour in a queue for a sandwich at lunchtime so it's for customers and businesses to offer this to their employees you know, it's a wellness initiative as well because it's healthy and it's there at your fingertips and companies can decide on their pricing for it as well, they can decide to give their, give it at a reduced price to their, their employees so yeah, it's another, it's another bow, string to our bow.

Yvonne Morgan 26:12

Excellent, I'm excited, I hope we can get one in the Flipdish office

Gillian Clarke 26:15

Yes! Yeah, there you go.

Yvonne Morgan 26:18

Can you tell me a bit about the, the setup that you have across your, your own e-commerce site

Gillian Clarke 26:27

So our e-commerce partner is Flipdish, and we would be quite a bespoke client for Flipdish, in that we operate more like a grocery retailer than a restaurant. So like I mentioned earlier, we would have things like geographical splits for, which helps us to pick and pack in the Depo, we would have that you can select your delivery time and your delivery these days. So we operate much more like when you're getting your weekly grocery shop then when you just go online and order your, order your takeaway to come as soon as possible. So we have had a lot of bespoke requirements and it is the one thing that we did look at bringing in-house and then thought you know what, this is too big we could actually end up with a full time tech department in-house, and that would not be the best spend of our funds. Flipdish have been fantastic partners in that anything that we've come to them, in terms of customization, they have listened to, they've looked at, they've been very open and upfront and said "you know what, that is something we can do." Like for example, the slots and the delivery slots, is not something they would do with their restaurant trade but for, for us they do, which has been fantastic. We have been badgering at them about postcodes which would help with you know, routing and all of the rest. They are looking at that. We've been talking to them about a referral programme, it's on their roadmap, we've been talking to them about subscription options, again it's something they're looking at so, they have been really great in working with us to make sure that their business fits what we need but also I think they get lots of really good feedback from us because I would share with them the Survey Monkey feedback that says I'm finding this really clunky on the website or the app. I'm part of their beta testing group as well which means any of the developments they kind of, push them down to me first and I have a play with them and I'll say you know this works, that doesn't work, I love this could, you try that. So it's a real partnership with the guys and as I said, we did look at going out of house but actually Flipdish ticks almost all of the boxes for us.

Yvonne Morgan 28:25

That's great, good to hear. I'm glad you're happy and also being part of the beta group I think is quite interesting. It's probably a good experience for you as well. I wanted to go back and talk, because when we were in the early part of our conversation, in regards to your decision to start to provide healthy meals, what decisions did you make in terms of how to educate the customer about health and what types of food to choose, or what's best for them? Did you get questions or feedback from customers and what was that, was there a learning curve there?

Gillian Clarke 29:07

I suppose the meals kind of grew organically in Dublin Meat Company, and they started off as, I would call them very basic. They were in sort of trays with two sides and it was on the small label that had your basic macros on them. And then the Fit Foods, we'll say logo, sort of informed the customer, this is your more healthy option within the Dublin Meat Company cabinet. We did take a decision probably 18 months ago actually to redo all of the sleeves on the meals and we made it really clear to put sort of call outs on the calories and the protein. Protein is really important for a lot of our clients who are, you know, who are working out and maybe bulking up, and that sort of thing. One thing I have noticed is a real increase in interest in fibre content and actually in fibre, it's not, you're not required to list fibre. And actually you could, you could list so many extra things that you could probably have, you know, three reams of packaging around your product. But we've never actually put fibre on the packaging, but again through social media and through that survey that we put out to the deliveries, people are saying "I'd love to see your fibre content listed on your sleeves." Now we went and we updated the website and we have the fibre content listed there under all the products, but the decision has been made on the next run of printing on the sleeves, we will include fibre content because it's obviously something that's very important to customers at the moment. I meant to mention actually, that we launched as well a frozen range. So we have launched, they're, like your healthier chicken goujon, so they're coated in oats as opposed to like a batter. And we came up with little different icons and stuff that you can use, I can clearly identify that this is a Fit Foods product within the freezer cabinet. And we have a little icon called "make that change." So customers know instinctively that that's your healthier option, when you've got two kind of chicken goujons sitting, sitting side by side.

Yvonne Morgan 29:08

If we talk about the, the impact of the pandemic, you had lots of changes and new business concepts coming through. Were there any changes to the way your service or the way that you kind of serve customers or spoke with customers throughout the pandemic that you identified as either opportunities or challenges along the way?

Gillian Clarke 31:32

Well, for the guys in the shop, and I have to say they have done an amazing job because they have been frontline throughout, we never shut our doors. And if you remember, at the start of the pandemic, there was that panic, that food was going to go off the shelves. There was that worry about the supply chain breaking down. There was, you know, that initial awful feeling when we had to start putting on masks and putting, you know, Perspex between us and the customers. But our guys have been absolutely amazing. They have been their usual chirpy selves, making sure that it feels as normal as possible. We obviously in the shop, had to put in all of the procedures and everything in place around sanitising, social distancing and all the rest. But we were lucky in the kind of bricks and mortar business that we have great, great guys and girls on the front line. And who have made it as, sort of normalised as possible. You know and actually now we don't even notice that, you know everybody's wearing masks and social distancing, and all of the rest. For the digital side and the online side of things, we just found it critical to stay in contact with customers, we were getting masses of questions and queries coming through on social media. So it was over the period of probably the first initial two to three weeks when we went into lockdown, making sure that we were contacting everybody. If the delivery was going to be late, that we were on the phone and we were letting people know, because there was just that sense of fear around, where is it where's my food? It was this thing, I need to stock up my cabinet, and I need to make sure my fridge is full and my family are taken care of. So communication for us was absolutely critical, that we were getting back seven days a week, no matter what hour of the day that you contacted us, that you got a response. It wasn't a bot, it was a person at the end of you know, your social media. And same thing with the phone lines, the phone lines were ringing off the hook. So we did things like we put voicemail, little notes on the, like if you can't get through, but you may have questions, these are the top questions. "Yes, we're still open, these are our opening hours. Yes, you can order click and collect Yes, we have delivery, here's the website." So an awful lot of the questions that people had were kind of staved off through the voicemail, and then if they wanted to stay on hold and eventually get to talk to somebody, they could. We put up frequently asked question pages on, you know, the Flipdish website and we were directing people to that, we were using our email and our text message database to make sure, just as I said it was, communication with absolutely key. And we never had, people never got that antsy as long as somebody was talking to them and telling them, and updating them, like, as I said, at the initial couple of days when we were, knew that we were going to be late getting out the door for delivery, or we were actually trying to get ahead of deliveries and get it to people early, just the communication was absolutely key. And that's, you know, again, going back to an in-house thing, we manage all our social media in-house. Because we're a small family brand, we're a family business, and it's, we always talk about "from our family to yours." So it's that, you're going to talk to somebody, you know, as I said on the other side, it's not some robot or to some automated response that you're going to get.

Yvonne Morgan 34:30

Yeah, And are your customers reaching out to you through social media primarily?

Gillian Clarke 34:35

No, well for me, because I'm not the frontline in the shop, yes, it's social media. And as I said that, that survey that we send, we put a free text box in that so they can, you know, tell us whatever they think. So I manage all of that completely. And then the lads, the butchers themselves give feedback through Niall, the area manager, if they hear these are the kinds of questions and queries coming back. So yeah. But primarily for me, it's definitely social media. And it's a great community there, which is super.

Yvonne Morgan 35:06

That's great. And Gillian, I have one last question more about the future of Dublin Meat Company. So just in regard to the future of Dublin Meat Company and where the business is going, is there anything that you can share either new ventures because it sounds like you guys are excellent at seeking out new opportunities or new markets, new cities, et cetera.

Gillian Clarke 35:31

Yes, so we are working hard as I said, behind the scenes on new products. We really feel that September is going to be like the new January here, particularly in Ireland, that it's going to be like, almost like a back to school back to work feel. So we wanted to make sure that we had freshness in the range going forward. So we have four or five new products, and a new kind of sub Fit Foods range coming out in September. So that's going to be really, really exciting. And, and we are obviously in talks with Lidl about extra products into the range, maybe new markets with them. And then off the back of the success of the nationwide delivery. We would be looking to extend that into delivery range. but yeah, watch this space.

Yvonne Morgan 36:15


Gillian Clarke 36:16

Always moving, always kind of just looking for the next thing because yeah, you just can't stop and rest on your laurel.

Yvonne Morgan 36:24

That's it for this week's episode of Flipdish Takeaways. If you'd like to find out more, feel free to visit our website at flipdish.com. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to hit subscribe wherever you're listening. See you next time.