Things are settling down a bit, winter’s blanket is covering the retail world. Time for a bit of reflection here at Willy West Deli. We are all very excited for 2012 and wish you and yours everything bright and happy in this new year!

It’s hard to believe that it was just over a year ago—Monday, November 15th, 2011—we first opened our doors to you all. In the Deli we were pretty apprehensive—we had a beautiful kitchen and hot/cold bar area, all the bells and whistles, pots and pans, and a top-notch staff but we didn’t have a proper game plan. There, I said it; we had all we needed but everything was so new and foreign to us, we weren’t quite sure how to pull it all together. We had the planner’s vision which we were expected to bring to life.

Everyone had done their homework, we had a great sandwich menu, ideas for showcasing the grill, the support of our friends at the Production Kitchen and the go-ahead from Mike Byrne, our Store Manager. Putting food out on the cold bar was easy enough—everyone has eaten at or set-up a salad bar. But we had never seen a hot bar quite as large as the one we have—12 wells with whole hotel pans that we had to keep looking “appetizing” for two to three hours at a time. Not so tough, right? I mean we are “food service professionals.” At least that’s what we thought.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we weren’t happy with the way things were looking. We put our heads together and decided to take a chance on increasing the amount of items we put on the hot bar, thereby decreasing the amount in each pan. Remember the long half-pans that no one could reach without almost completely putting their entire body under the sneezeguard? Yeah, that was my idea; most people aren’t 5’4” like I am, and it was easy for me to reach the various dishes we had available, but the average person...I got your customer comment cards, sorry.

After that, we played around with different configurations. Believe me, you all are incredibly patient and I’ve gotten quite an education on what does and doesn’t work for you on the hot bar, thank you—really. The whole reason for this article is to let you know how hard we’ve tried and how much we appreciate you being there and letting us know what you’d like and what does or doesn’t work.

Current plan
This leads me to our current configuration, I think we’ve finally come up with the right fit—24 different dishes that vary from day to day. We’ve got our popular Taco Tuesday which features mainly Mexican- themed items, many of which are made in-house. This is a good lead in to our great partners at the Production Kitchen. Although we produce some of our food in-house, we could not open our hot bar or service case without their help. They produce a wide variety of hot and cold food (you’ve surely seen items at both retails) that are too numerous to mention here. Thank you to the dedicated workers at the Production Kitchen!

At Willy West we love to interact with you. Throughout this entire year you have patiently supported us and we will continue with our commitment to bringing you the very best we can.

Gluten-free requests
We get many requests for more “gluten-free” items and I must speak to that; our Deli kitchen and the Production Kitchen are not able to provide “gluten-free” items. We do make many items without gluten (labeled “made without gluten”), but our facilities cannot guarantee that gluten will not come into contact with food. We do our best but worry as people’s allergy levels vary and we would feel horrible if someone got ill from something we’ve made. So that means until we get a gluten-free facility we will continue to produce “made without gluten” items and warn you to be careful when it comes to your choices.

Other projects
For the Willy West Deli in general, we plan on expanding our breakfast menu—both the hot bar and made-to-order. We’re looking to add Mediterranean Day to the menu showcasing Greek, Turkish, Algerian & Spanish (probably East Indian too).

We’ve also been pricing and measuring the “life” of each dish we put out on the hot bar. Look for some changes there as we’re always trying to make it better and get it right for you all.

Thank you
Which leads me to my closing: thank you for guiding us this past year and supporting us through our ups and downs. Please, please keep those comments and suggestions coming in. We couldn’t have done it without you folks. Help keep us on our toes by letting us know what’s working and what’s not!

Community Reinvestment Fund

Nessalla Kombucha

Osteopathic Manual Therapy

Human Nature - Katy Wallace, ND RYT