Did you know that as owners of the Willy Street Co-op you have an avenue for voicing opinions, making requests, and offering suggestions for how things are run? It is the customer comment form located near the Customer Service desk. These forms are routed to the person best able to respond to your question or comment, who then writes a reply and the form is posted in the Commons area. We receive a lot of these comment forms in the Deli, mostly from long-time members, and mostly asking detailed questions that makes it clear they’ve been shopping here for a while. At the counter, we also get a lot of questions that we answer on the spot. These questions don’t always get posted so we periodically run a “Frequently Asked Questions” article. Well, it’s now been well over a year since we’ve done one. Therefore, once again in no particular order, here are some of the most frequently asked questions in the Deli:

What’s in the hot case today?

Smart shoppers call everyday with this question. And that’s the best answer I can give you. Our hot case menu is posted weekly on our website, but for the most accurate answer, it’s best to call ahead. Sometimes we’ll have a run on an item and run out, sometimes we’ll bake off some extras from the day before, and sometimes we’ll throw a cold case item in the case just for the heck of it as an extra.

Do you do catering?

We currently do limited catering, meaning we’ll make the food but we don’t have any waitstaff. For more information you can visit our website, email us at catering@willystreet.coop, or contact Josh Perkins at 251-6776. Josh will work with you to design a menu using local and/or organic items wherever possible and can customize it for any special diets in your group.

Why did you run out of the special? Or a hot case item? Or my favorite salad/dip?

I order hot foods a week before production, dips and spreads are ordered three times a week, and salads are ordered daily from our Production Kitchen. I base our orders on how much we’ve historically sold, the weather forecast, the time of year, and my trick knee. My goal is to order the most food I can without having any left over to throw away. Sometimes my ordering isn’t as accurate as I hope. For example, the day of the ice storm at the beginning of December, I had seen the forecast that it was supposed to start early in the day—that means we won’t sell much—except the forecast was wrong and it started after dinner, and we ran a pan or two short in the hot case. I usually try to err on the side of ordering too much, but wasting food has always been particularly painful to me.

Do you deliver?

The Deli does not deliver. The Co-op does, however, have a home delivery service. Deliveries are made to certain zip codes on certain days:

53703: Every day except Wednesday
53704: Monday, Thursday, Saturday
53705: Tuesday, Friday, Sunday
53706: Tuesday, Friday, Sunday
53711 (portion north of beltline): Tuesday, Friday, Sunday
53713: Tuesday, Friday, Sunday
53714: Monday, Thursday, Saturday
53715: Tuesday, Friday, Sunday
53716: Monday, Thursday, Saturday
53726: Tuesday, Friday, Sunday
(We do not currently deliver on Wednesdays.)

For more information, including details on delivery times see our website at shop.willystreet.coop. Don’t forget though, all items are based upon availability at the time you call.

Can you switch to corn-based packaging?

The latest up-and-comer of our questions! I’ve researched many companies and many products and this keeps coming down to two main concerns. First is price—these products are usually about eight times the price of our current packaging. That comes out to a lot of money every week—in the neighborhood of a few grand. Which means in order to meet the financial goals approved by our members, we’d most likely have to increase prices. Not ideal, but not necessarily a deal breaker if the product is really as good as it says. Which it is not. I have yet to find a corn-based product that is not a) made by Cargill-Dow, b) imported from Asia (kind of kills the sustainability argument), c) made from non-GMO corn, or d) is actually compostable like they all claim to be. Some pass some of these tests, but most do not and I have yet to find a single item that passes all of them. My current decision is to wait until one does before I bring it in.

Why is this product so expensive?

Another very difficult one. Basically it boils down to two factors. Number one is the price we pay for the food. Using organic and high quality ingredients comes at a higher cost. Additionally, unlike some larger grocery stores, we use smaller distributors for some items and order smaller quantities. Both of those things will also drive up cost. The second factor is that we want to pay our people what they are worth. Although I think the staff is priceless, they still insist on a paycheck. We could change these things, but I hope not. We are, however, committed to keeping some of our staple items at a lower sales margin to keep the prices down.

Why do the hot case, Juice Bar, and sandwich bar have different hours than the store?

We experimented with keeping the hot case open until 9:00pm for about a year. What we discovered was that it added an additional three hours of labor time to our closing shift and the sales didn’t cover that expense. Cleaning, sanitizing, and putting it all back together takes a fair amount of time (especially in the case of the Juice Bar), and I also felt that it wasn’t a good idea to keep a staff member later than the rest of the store and force them to leave the store alone just to serve one or two more people.

Can I get a recipe?

Our last and, by far, most frequent question. The short answer is yes, mostly. We have a database of recipes at the Deli counter that our staff can access and print out for you on the spot. However, some of our recipes are new experiments and the recipe may not be in the system yet. For those we’ll need to contact our Kitchen and that may take a day or so, depending on whether or not the cook has actually written the recipe down yet. Finally, other recipes come to us as part of the Co-op Share Program. We have an agreement with these co-ops that we will not give out their recipes. If you’d like a recipe that isn’t in our database, stop by or call the Deli. We’ll need your home address and will snail mail you a copy of the recipe. We don’t yet have the ability to attach recipes to our email program, and because of the number of requests we have, rewriting each of them into an email would require an eight-day workweek. One final caveat—our recipes are scaled to make huge amounts and occasionally contain ingredients that require a recipe of their own (like peanut sauce). If you have questions, call or stop by and we’ll direct you to the right person to answer the question—many of our Deli staff have cooked the recipes themselves, but as time goes by this number is getting smaller and we may have to call the Kitchen.

Any more questions?

So there you have it, some of our most frequently asked questions. If you have one that’s not on the list, or want more details on one of the above, fill out one of those comment forms or send us an email. I answer all the Deli ones myself, and try to do so quickly.