Interview: Urban Deli owner Liz Rowe

In today’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ Blog, we interview Urban Deli’s owner Liz Rowe.

Q. Liz, you’re certainly no stranger at filling in on the line, plus prep. A few very busy days saw you on the line for Urban Deli, straight on into Italian at Night. How well did you feel prepared to do this?

Our staff at work and smiling!

Dale and Diem at work wearing big smiles!

A. I feel prepared for two reasons. First, I know our Italian menu, the ingredients and the basics for most our recipes. When we are building our Italian menus each season, it is very collaborative. Second, because there is a ‘list’ I feel prepared. Kim is great at leaving a good list.

It’s like a Seinfeld episode – there’s always a list and you follow the list. For me it’s about staying focused on the list. I’m like a squirrel at times…When I see a shiny object I want to go investigate and I tend to get distracted for brief moments. The ‘list’ takes me longer than most but it does get done.

Q. What are the differences between prep and line from the Urban Deli shift to the Italian at Night shift?

A. Other than being done in the same work space they are different outputs with the same love.

Urban Deli is go, go, go! Fast paced. The production and outputs are greater by volume for the deli and over shorter periods of time. The atmosphere is electric, including fun music, the ‘lunch hurried’ guests, plus our teams are all moving at a faster pace. That’s because we are serving our clients’ needs by way of time restrictions.

Our price point is different; therefore, it is important for us to serve a high volume of guests.

On the deli line we use the grill all day and the deep fryer for our best ever frites (fries). Working around those two pieces of equipment is completely different than for Italian — where we will slowly sauté risotto in a pan on the gas stove. By the time that’s done we would have had 10 dishes done for Deli.

The Italian by Night prep and line is all about slowing things down and offering customers the same guest experience without the fast pace.

For Italian, we turn it up a notch by turning it down.

The lights are dimmed, the music is Italian or more relaxed / flowing, candles are lit and there is a longer interaction with customers to discuss food and wine choices / recommendations.

Ingredients, while excellent for both, are completely different from deli to Italian. We source ingredients directly from Italy and the ‘love’ is different…so is the skill set for cooking.

Q. As experienced as you are, what kinds of feelings do you have, dropping into the line at the last minute?

A. My feeling about dropping into the line is always the same. I don’t mind a bit. Of course, everything you planned to do that day gets bumped. But there are nights for that.
I get to keep my finger on the pulse. Interact with the team on the line and the wait staff who pick up the food to deliver to our customers.

I get to complement and to improve things or ensure we are doing things consistently. Even to the point where the pickle and coleslaw need to be a particular way on the plate. I am there with a critical eye for the sake of consistency of product and service. Bottom line.

The wait staff are excellent at giving us feedback from our customers. We adjust quickly when needed. The customer pays our bills and we are never to forget it – we are there to appreciate and love our customers, which we do.

Q. What, if any, considerations do you even have a chance to think about, when it comes to front of the house, customers being seated, customers waiting, etc when you are on the line, or prepping?

A. I always make my way to the front of house to say hello, seat a customer, deliver food or freshen up their coffee or water. Our strength is acknowledging our customers and anticipating their needs.

I hate it when I go into retail of any sort and they don’t acknowledge me. Because of that experience, we work hard to treat customers the way we want to be treated when we go out.

Q. Does working on the line keep you ‘fresh’ so to speak?

A. I love the experience. I either work the line or prep on average of once per week.

Working line / prep gives me an opportunity to see how the teams engage with one another.

We’re always reminding each other about why we’re here– for our customers. With so many different personalities we remember to be kind to one another. Life is short.

On the food side, I have fun tasting or testing new things with the prep team and kitchen teams. The goal is to keep the teams engaged to want to try new things or bring new ideas to the table.

To be able to watch everyone do their job well and to have our customers top of mind is more than a business owner could ask for.
It’s a gift, an art or a science or a hybrid of them all. It also keeps me current, informed and ready to ‘adjust’ things quickly if indeed they need to be adjusted.

Q. It must give you renewed appreciation for your teams.

A. I love our teams; the people, their individual quirks, their enthusiasm for doing a great job and they genuinely care about our customers. Do they have bad days? They sure do. They are human and we work around it. Laughter is the best medicine.

When customers stop and thank the teams for doing a great job or if they had a good experience, the team talks about that feedback often. We really do have an ‘A’ Team.

Diem at work at the Deli..

Yup. We love food!

Be sure to follow our blog as we introduce you to the team, to our regulars, to our most favourite deli foods and more! If you’d like a topic covered, just drop us a line!

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Christmas Hours

Our apologies for being slow getting this out. Here it is, in a nutshell:

We will be closed:

Dec. 25, 26 and 27. (But Italian by Night will be open on the 27th)

We are open:

Saturday – Dec 28th

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Something about Christmastime

Elizabeth with Storm and Fran (photo: Greg Knudson)

Elizabeth with Storm and Fran (photo: Greg Knudson)

Every year the Urban Deli gives their waiters/waitresses the day off on Dec 24th. Volunteers (usually customers) are used as servers instead of their regular staff and all tips are going to be donated to the SPCA Animal Rescue!

Looking forward to seeing how generous customers will be this Christmas.

Elizabeth Rowe (owner of Urban Deli & Italian By Night) and her husband John Mallory are the lucky owners of Whiskers (a beautiful kitty adopted from Saint John shelter) and Storm (a black Labrador also from the shelter).

Donations are being accepted and customers are welcome to drop off any food or toys at the restaurant.

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My Necessary Evil

“The only Twit Tweeting was me.”Twitter…I was multitasking yesterday (what woman doesn’t) and sent myself a Tweet — not once, not twice but three times from two different Twitter accounts and to each other. Basically, I was having a conversation with myself and did not know it.

Immediately, I had two good friends send me an email to ask what was going on. My response “the only Twit Tweeting was me”. I was slightly embarrassed.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can be a perfectionist in some ways and especially with food and customer service (thank goodness there’s wine). At times, I drive myself crazy.

One of the things that I have not perfected is social media. I get it, the spirit and intent: The opportunities (socializing and communicating information … plus it truly is an economical way to stay competitive, if you’re a business.

Twitter is my necessary evil.

Not unlike Twitter , Yellow Pages Directory (the hard copy) for many years was a necessary evil. You need to have a presence when you’re in retail, especially if you’re a restaurant.

There are few differences between Twitter & what Yellow Pages was…Twitter is not going away any time soon because social media has relatively no barriers to entry EXCEPT not understanding how to use it correctly. It’s fast and you don’t have to wait a year to update your information.

It got me thinking about other necessary evils that have come and gone for me over time.

My list has evolved over decades (the 1960′s to present day)

  • Afternoon Naps
  • School
  • Vegetables
  • Love
  • Teller Line Ups
  • Taxes
  • Government
  • Yellow Pages Advertising
  • Having to be a ‘member’ to get a discount / saving (what major retailer does not have a points reward / member card?)
  • Money
  • My latest – Twitter (joining the 21st Century)

I look forward to overcoming yet another necessary evil with a smile and help from my ‘web guy’ Bill, Fran & Michelle who I love dearly. They’re my social media gurus who get me ‘unstuck’ and are truly creative.

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TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence award for UD

You see that little thing in the upper right? Yes, we received a Certificate of Excellence award from TripAdvisor. And we’re thrilled! Here’s what it means …

“SAINT JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA – May 22, 2013 – Urban Deli today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award. The accolade, which honors hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Only the top-performing 10 percent of businesses listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award.

“To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four or higher, out of a possible five, as reviewed by travelers on TripAdvisor, and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months.”

We want to send out a huge thank you to everyone, the people of Saint John and those who have visited our wonderful city and its Uptown (and our Urban Deli) for all of the kind words you have written about us. You have no idea what it means to us.

Thank you!!! :)

Posted in News, Saint John, Uptown Saint John | 3 Comments

Sweeney Todd tickets winner!

Congratulations to Kim Killiam, winner of complimentary Sweeney Todd tickets, donated by the Saint John Theatre Company. It runs tonight through Saturday and if you are not familiar with Sweeney Todd (the Demon Barber of Fleet Street), let’s just say it will give you pause the next time you get a haircut or eat pie. ;)

Congrats again to Kim. And if you’re taking in this wonderful musical, why not plan on having some lovely Italian dining before the show with Italian by Night? Just a thought!

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Winter’s best 2013: Uptown’s February Fork-off

The Uptown is warming things up for February with the 2013 February Fork Off. This year, we’re doing Italian with our Italian by Night menu for this year.

February Food Week

 Chop Chop Plate

Antipasti di Casa
house olives/ tomato jam/ mozzarella di bufala/ prosciutto

 Three Course

Rustico Cozze
mussels/ tomato/ white wine/cream/ herbs/ chilli

Cannelloni Vegetale
ricotta/ spinach/ tomato/ mozzarella

Peposo e Fungi
beef/ red wine/ herbs/ freshly ground pepper

Please advise your server of allergies.

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