Friday, April 16, 2010

Adventures in Cheese-buying

I know that D&D played a key roll in bringing fine cheese to the US under the direction of Steven Jenkins, but lately their selection looks really old (stale). The cheddar's that they have from Neal's Yard looks really abused (meaning mis-handeled).

This is happening in a couple of places around the city, I think the slow recovery of the economy is still impacting cheese sales making it more difficult to move big quantities of expensive European cheese. The problem is that many of the big cheese stores are only able to make a profit because they buy big volumes at a discount - economies of scale. The trade-off is that if they cannot sell their inventories all their cheeses sit on shelves for longer periods of time. Stores are not a good environment for cheese, as they are normally too dry and most cheeses need regulated moisture in the environment to not crack or become old. Once a cheese is open, it is really difficult to keep in good shape in over-refrigerated environments.

A way to prevent that the selection looks old, is to have a good team of cheesemongers (no attitude is important) to take care of the cheese, but also to approach inexperienced customers that would like to buy something but are unsure about what to get. Good knowledgeable staff is difficult to come buy, specially when sales are low, however there are ways to ensure that your employees help sell more cheese. A good way is to give them a good environment to work (benefits, breaks, job stability) - if mongers are happy they will sell more cheese. I know this from experience. Sheridan's Cheesemongers in Ireland is a great little company that cares for its employees and when I was there it was easy to sell cheese because people weren't worry about their job.

Dean and Deluca is still a good option to get cheese, they are conveniently located in the city and have good quality. They just need to ensure that cheesemongers are happy, approachable and they will do the rest by selling more cheese. Their cheese needs more attention and love.

Cheese selection @ Dean and Deluca -SoHo (New York, New York)

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