The Deli is Seven Years Old!

ud_bd02Today is our birthday — we’re 7 years old! We opened July 13th, 2009 and haven’t looked back.

We’re proud to say we have the best customers and the best staff anywhere. And why wouldn’t we?

We’re in the heart of Uptown Saint John, the best place to be!

Thank you to everyone in the Uptown, the other great businesses that pump life into the city every day. And thank you to everyone in Saint John, New Brunswick, the Maritimes….What a fabulous place!

And thanks to everyone that has ever visited us, asked us to cater their event, and to all the people we’ve been able to work with behind the scenes, in the kitchen, and to all the wonderful suppliers that keep us going.

We absolutely love this place!

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Six Years Later, Still Going Strong

We’ve put another year under our belt – we’re six years old today! We opened Urban Deli on July 13, 2009. And we’ve had a blast ever since making and serving the delights on our menu, catering, and being a part of the great Uptown Saint John community.

Meeting the people of our city is one of the best parts of being here. So may characters! So many stories! So many delightful people! It really is a thrill.

There is always a grocery list’s worth of people to say thank you to but to make a small dent we want to send a huge thanks to our fabulous staff, the tremendous vendors and suppliers we get to work with and, of course, our fabulous customers.

“Thank you Saint John,” doesn’t come close to saying how grateful we are to the Port City but, thank you Saint John!

Urban Deli in Uptown Saint John

Urban Deli in Uptown Saint John

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Meet our server, Lydia Reardon

Urban Deli’s Lydia Reardon.

Urban Deli’s Lydia Reardon.

Young, personable, energetic and a go-getter – that’s Urban Deli’s server Lydia in a nutshell. She remembers when she was vying for a job at the Deli and Liz Rowe, the owner, agreed to give her a test run. Lydia was 19 and needed a summer job, so she went straight home and memorized the entire menu overnight, including which aioli’s and breads the sandwiches came with.

“Obviously I was a bit of a keener. Liz told me a couple of years later that she was shocked and impressed by this since during my interview apparently I gazed out the window and she felt I wasn’t really taking it all in. Little did she know then…”

Lydia had been recommended by a family friend who was also a friend of Liz – it was one of those ‘who you know who knows a friend’ of the owner sort of introductions, more than three years ago now. Of course, memorizing the menu is one thing. Faced with a trio of hungry ladies on her first day was another thing completely.

“My first shift was stressful to say the least. I had the communal table and these three ladies came in (I still know who they are to this day) and ordered three turkey sandwiches. Well, we have a smoked turkey sandwich, plus we also have a club sandwich which has the turkey on it as well. I order the three sandwiches, add the white cheddar cheese and hold the reds (tomato and red peppers). I bring out the smoked turkey sandwiches to the table. WRONG SANDWICH. I was so stressed that I was going to be in trouble but Liz was great about it. Staff had smoked turkey sandwiches for lunch instead, and I brought the ladies the correct sandwiches. Everyone won, and that describes the Deli perfectly.”

Becoming a new server always includes memorable mistakes, like the time Lydia tipped an entire tray of pop bottles and glasses onto a table, which soaked everyone and everything. Part of the fun, yes? And likely just as memorable for the customers, too. Or how about the young guy who ordered six raw eggs in a glass for breakfast and you’re trying to keep the ‘ewww’ off your face?

Working in a deli environment is always hustle bustle hectic, and that’s just the way the servers like it. No one day is like the other. Consistency is in the customer service, and of course, the kitchen love.

“Customer service is Number One. Liz has always said the customer’s experience is everything. For example, although a customer may not enjoy their meal, if you go above and beyond and try to provide them with the best service and an enjoyable outing, then they will probably come back. However, if the customer service isn’t there, you won’t get a second chance to change a customer’s mind.“

Clearly, Urban Deli stands out in its level of customer service. The food is equally consistent and oh so delicious. Did you know that the Urban Deli’s sauerkraut is second to none?

“I could live off the sauerkraut. OH MY GOD. It is delicious! I dislike sauerkraut at any other location and only eat ours. It could be because there is bacon in it and isn’t everything better with bacon in it? Have you tried it?”

Talk to enough staff members and you’ll quickly learn it really is family. The Urban Deli Family. It’s 100% the people who make it what it is. Full of squabbles, loyalty, excitement, and always open to new ideas. For instance, Lydia likes to pride herself on introducing the ‘Red Pant’. Liz had chosen black and red for the deli colours, and one day Lydia breezed on in wearing her Deli shirt with bright red pants on. It was a bit hit with everyone and is now part of the Deli uniform.

And when Lydia suddenly couldn’t work?

“Liz and Gord are amazing. I actually love them so much – they have helped build me up and helped get me through the worst moments of my life to date. I need consistency when I am going through a life changing event or crisis and they provide that for me. A few years ago I had to have emergency surgery to have my gallbladder removed and was out of work for 6 weeks and they looked after me, concerned I would be struggling since I wasn’t able to work. How SWEET is that?”

And when we’re talking about people making it what it is, we’re also talking about the customers.

“I know so many customers – my parents tend to be socialites – so I knew a lot of people to begin with, but now that I work at the Deli people stop me all the time and say ‘You look so familiar, where do I know you from?’ and the answer is almost always from the Deli. I had lunch at another restaurant today and I saw these two ladies who come in and always order a pulled piggy and a burger and I said ‘Ladies! No pulled piggy and urban burger today!’ They laughed as they recognized me and we had a lovely little chat. I love saying hello to regulars whenever I see them. They are all so lovely.”

Lydia is a very busy gal. She’s currently in school full time at UNB for her Business Degree. She works at Urban Deli, plus at Irving Oil this fall while she attends school. In January 2015 she leaves for Hong Kong for four months, for more school.

Make sure you drop in and say hello before the end of the year!

(Written by Denise Wamsley of Wildhair.ca)

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Introducing Liane Daigle

Liane Daigle, part of Urban Deli's staff from the beginning.

Liane Daigle, part of Urban Deli’s staff from the beginning.

There’s something really special about being a part of something from the very beginning, isn’t there?  Witnessing a dream come true as it were.  Liane Daigle is a funny and outgoing waitress at Urban Deli, who had no idea years ago that she would become part of the Urban Deli family.

Liane met Liz Rowe, the owner, while the Urban Deli building was still in its renovation stages.  They met at a Toastmasters meeting and hit it off.

“We were both from ‘away’ as the saying goes around here and shared some travel stories; that for me was a big score to find someone who shares my sense for adventure. I found myself dropping in to see the progress of the restaurant renovations and drink their wine, all the while putting my two cents in about the overall project as I have a background in construction. I can honestly say becoming a waitress again was NOT on my radar.

“I was a mother of a three-year-old and suffering from a major condition called ‘mommy brain,’ plus the obvious obstacle that it had been over 20 years since I was in that racket.”

Liane was sure that Liz would be hiring someone more ‘perky’ and perhaps less opinionated. However, as the hiring process began Liane offered to help out until Liz found the right staff to meet her vision. Long story short, Liane was kept on the work schedule.

The first few weeks and months were pretty nutty.  Liane reminds us that back when she was a waitress in the 80’s there was no fancy restaurant software to keep track of orders; you just wrote it down on your pad of paper and gave it to the kitchen.  Nice and simple and that was the plan in the early days of the Deli, too.

Liane’s sense of humour shines through.

“Well, that system worked for about a week before it became painfully clear Liz needed to invest in some ‘sanity software’ as I dubbed it – STAT.  Those first few weeks (months?) were brutal. I’m quite certain if we were writing a letter to our best friends it would look like art. But when you fill a restaurant with hungry customers your hand writing goes to $&! and it was up to the kitchen to decipher our chicken scratch that resembled a doctor’s shorthand. The poor kitchen would be getting yelled at by us like an I-95 truck stop, customers were reeling at the thought of having to sit at a ‘communal table’ and the Deli slicer would be whizzing like a high school shop class band saw in the background. It was all music to Liz’s ears as she saw her dream taking flight I’m sure.”

Over the years Liane’s been timed at how long she’s talked to a customer, teased about how long she talks to a customer, thanked for taking time to tell a customer about all aspects of the  business, tipped for exceeding customer expectations, as well as winning a service excellence award.

“I can’t speak for the others but I get asked almost daily if I’m the owner. My standard answer is always ‘No, I work like the owner but I get paid more’ and then there’s chuckles and I add there are days I work more and get paid less but it’s still a great job and I wouldn’t change a thing. I love working here and there’s always total agreement from the customers.

“Faking happy in a place with so many regulars isn’t an option. It’s part of why we have the success that we do. Customers love our staff and the ones they didn’t found another place to fake happy at. If there’s one thing Liz makes clear is if you’re not happy go find it elsewhere. There’s been a real core group since the beginning that has really raised the bar in the service industry around Saint John. I hear from the others in this industry around Saint John that we are very unique, but it’s all I know and anything less would be out of sync with the rest of the program. I have to laugh though at some of the characters that have come and gone both on the floor and in the kitchen. A real melting pot of talent that’s for sure.”

Isn’t she too much fun?  Come on in and say hello to Liane and the rest of the gang.  And stay tuned for more stories like this one in the coming weeks.

(Written by Denise Wamsley of Wildhair.ca)

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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!

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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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Holiday hours

Every year, it’s a seeming muddle. To help make it clear, these are our hours for Urban Deli and Italian by Night. We hope to see you over the holidays and hear your Christmas story … and maybe share ours. 🙂 Here are our hours …

December 24 (Christmas Eve)

Deli open. Italian by Night closed.

December 25 and 26

Deli and Italian by Night closed

December 27

Deli closed. Italian by Night open at 5PM.

December 28, 29 & 31 (New Year’s Eve!)

Deli and Italian by Night open

January 1 and 2

Deli and Italian by Night closed

January 3, 2013

Deli and Italian by Night OPEN for a brand new year!

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Simplify with a yummy gift

Just ask to have one added to your bill next time you are in for a bite to eat.

Finding the right gift can sometimes be a challenge. The year is full of gift-giving occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations … and yes, the day that is beginning to loom on the calendar for later next month.

(Is it too early to mention it by name?)

We have an idea for you, especially when you’re trying to find something for a foodie friend: an Urban Deli gift card. It may look small and unassuming, but it tastes wonderful! 🙂

When you pass by the Deli, or drop in for a bite, just ask us for a gift card — you choose the amount. They fit quite nicely inside a card. And an Urban Deli gift card can be used at anytime (no expiration date).

There is no need to be stressed trying to come up with a gift idea. You can simplify with one of our cards. And keep in mind, you don’t need a special occasion to give someone you care about a gift. Sometimes the best ones are those that come from right out of the blue.

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