Archives for posts with tag: Design

As a long standing food retail obsessive I am always looking at what is out there, what I think of it and what the next big thing will be. I have an active imagination which means that I am constantly looking to see what’s going on and piecing together bits of what I have seen into my fantasy place which would be cutting edge and innovative.

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In its time, Bills Food and Produce Store was that new place that everyone wanted to see and understand. Founded in 2001 by Bill Collison it was the second iteration of his original green grocer in Lewes, East Sussex. The original store was washed away in the floods of 2000 and as with all these stories, out of such a disaster came the silver lining as he re-established the business with the addition of a cafe. It was a clever model as he was able to add value to the raw produce by making delicious dishes and yet he had all the visual glamour that fresh fruit and veg offer, especially when handled by a talented team. Bill’s sister-in-law Tania Webb encouraged the evolution of the concept bringing her restaurant experience and a woman’s touch to the proceedings and paired with a good chef who understood the value of simple good food, history was made.

Over the years they stuck to their values: serve really good food, make sure every customer has a good time and go that bit further to make sure Bill’s is always somewhere people want to come back to….and they did!

Today Bill’s has been taken over by that talented corporate machine that is Richard Caring and don’t you know it. The individual charm has been rolled out to a formula and whilst it is better than some on the high street it does not have that individual entrepreneurial feel or charm any more. Bill has gone on to write a book, create Bill’s branded items and is still involved in the roll out of the brand but it is Tania and her creativity that brought me back to that Brighton area this weekend.

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Tania merged her love of good food, interest in design, expertise in the industry, kitchen designing partner and fellow food lover/co-worker at Bills, Louise Carter, together and in Summer 2013 Cafe Marmalade was born. She is one clever lady who may downplay the objectives of opening such a place but there is no doubt that her savvy approach has meant a roaring trade and a successful business.

What I liked was the fact that those original values that they set out at Bill’s were ingrained in the offer. Good food, great service, go that bit further.

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I think the whole tone of the place is established through its relaxed and homely approach. The design is rustic and eclectic, you could almost say unfinished. But it is a style no less.

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Simple things like shelves of raw produce and jams, stacks of well thumbed cookery books propping up the product displays and baking trays put straight out on display without touching up the overflowing browned bits of cheesy sauce all add to the feel. But more than that the staff are just great. Young, enthusiastic, engaging, smiley, chatty and above all attentive, they strike just the right tone under the watchful eye of the owners themselves who are there, in site, just bringing their concept to life every single day they operate.

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The flair with which they present everything is absolutely theirs. You feel their interest in food throughout the offer and as the day progresses, the counter moves along with new items added at differing times of the day as they are finished off in the tiny open plan kitchen. Breakfast evolves into lunch and then giant platters of scones or cake stands of friands come in to signal tea. And whilst the food is not going to win any Michelin stars, it is homely, tasty, generous, great value and just how you wish you could cook at home.

If you are even vaguely in the area I heartily recommend it and then take a long walk along the beach – you will need to walk off your over indulgence after falling for all the fab food they offer.

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I found out this weekend that my picnic concept won in the Wallpaper Design Awards 2016. Created this Summer I was trying to bring something new and innovative to the offer at Melrose and Morgan and it seems I achieved that.

It is always difficult to come up with something truly original especially in the food retail world as it is so full and fast moving. However I am a strong believer in innovation driving success in business and that meant that I had to come up with something new that would meet the demand of my customers, the approval of the team and also stand out from the crowd.

I had been collating interesting packaging ideas on my Pinterest board for some time and it was clear that there were lots of great new designs using cardboard engineering to replace more costly and cumbersome solutions. I find Pinterest a great way of saving creative ideas especially as I am such a visual person and you can see elements of various projects I have worked on over the years grounded in my different boards.

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Added to that was the fact that people’s tastes in food have been changing a lot. The traditional wicker basket hamper felt too staid and restrictive to me. Some people may want to plan a full blanketed, basket based experience but I think we are increasingly spontaneous in our food requests these days especially where outdoor eating is concerned. We Brits like to take advantage of the good weather and as it is pretty unpredictable I felt we needed an offer which was flexible. It could be a few pieces of great cheese, with crackers, tomatoes, chutney and a bottle of wine as much as an organised spread for 12 to lay out in the park.

In addition I wanted to give my shops a more flexible solution to selling picnics because I think it is challenging for shop floor staff to sell a high priced item in a fast moving casual retail experience. By bringing in a set of trays for two people to mix and match I was able to get more choice on display, better perceived value and arm the team with something that they could get behind every day for a variety of customer needs.

A search online brought the inner boxes that I needed to light which was most definitely the easy part. And populating the ingredients of each box: Meat; Cheese; Fish; Veggie; Dessert was as simple as cherry picking from our great supply base and engineering to fit the boxes (and the margin!) – a bit of work but all within the realms of a days work.

The hard bit was the cardboard outer that really pulled the whole thing together. The design brief was fairly simple once we hit upon the idea of selling where in London to have a picnic and the maps inside were well created by the team. But the specification of the cardboard itself proved to be the challenge. The general shape was dictated by the inner boxes, but the handle and its ability to hold all the contents without ripping was more about engineering and I have to say this is not my forte.

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Many a trial of swinging the contents back and forth in the office resulted in packets of smoked salmon and pots of desserts tumbling all over the floor. It was all too easy to just walk away but that’s just not in my nature. We asked advice of the printer, of qualified specialists and in the end my colleague’s hubby, who proved the most helpful and a week before launch, a day before the team were going to tell me to give it all up, and on our fifth attempt we quietly, tentatively built our picnic, lifted it carefully off the desk, gave it a small swing, then a larger one and finally a swing that was more appropriate to engaging a child at play and hallelujah. The cardboard held.

Over the Summer we had some great press pick up from Harpers Bazaar and Wallpaper to Grazia and Stylenest for our new picnic and it was satisfying to see our customers respond so well to the offer even though the weather didn’t exactly play its part. By the end of September we had seen good sales growth and it was a campaign success for us.

The icing on the cake came this weekend with the news that Wallpaper had recognised the design as award winning. As someone who loves design and creativity I am very proud to have the work we all contributed to getting this made given such a prominent accolade. Now all I have to do is think of something to move it on for next year!WinnerBadge_2016