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    Exclusive: Decades-old c-store makes freshly-made food its USP

    Baba's Kitchen

    In this rapidly changing world with where the meanings of convenience and retail keep doing the cha-cha, it is imperative that neighborhood stores pull out all the stops. It’s no more about just about staying in the game but it is about becoming the unsung heroes of the community – indispensable with unique selling point.

    And what can be a better example here is Baba’s Kitchen Costcutter store in Belshill, a suburb of Glasgow with a population of little more than 40,000 people.

    This store has been running for the last 40 years and is now managed by the third generation of the family. Speaking to Asian Trader, retailer Umar Majid delved in detail over the store’s history, its evolution in becoming a destination store as well as a solid support for the community.

    “In my opinion, our community involvement has been the key for the longevity of the store. As a third-generation retailer and having been around the store all my life, a lot of the customers have seen our family and business grow,” he said.

    The store was originally a bungalow with a laundrette added on to the side. Umar’s grandfather bought the business in October 1983 and converted it into a convenience store. When his father Abdul Majid took over the business, he introduced the Post Office. He also increased the store size twice and further developed the range.

    Now with realms in his hands, Umar is onto a new plan, strategically developing the store’s food-to-go side of business, thus making it the talk of the town.

    “Our food to go is now the main attraction of our store. When I started Baba’s Kitchen, I wanted to change the perception of our store from ‘a convenience store with a bit of food’ to ‘a food store with a bit of convenience’ and I believe I have done that,” he quipped.

    The store’s food sales is about 12-15 per cent of total sales, the only category above it is cigarettes and tobacco.

    “As our food sales have grown over the years, we have also seen an increase in soft drinks, confectionery and crisps as whenever a customer buys food; they often buy a drink and some sweets as well. We also make everything in-store so all our meals are homemade recipes made fresh. We sell between 300-350 meals a week with a considerable margin,” he said.

    Exclusive: Decades-old c-store makes freshly-made food its USP

    Umar’s vision is supported by TWC industry figures which show that independent convenience stores are one of the star performers in food to go with growth of +10 per cent, which is in line with the multiples, who have been outperforming the market for some time.

    The winning missions continue to be ‘something quick and easy’ and ‘regular favourite’, suggesting consumers want ease and are not willing to take risks, states TWC.

    Baba’s Kitchen has a well-thought-out menu, keeping in mind the tastes of its customers. But what customers absolutely love and what makes the store stand apart is that food is made at the premises- fresh and from scratch.

    The store has a regular breakfast menu comprising of rolls and sausage, bacon, egg. It also keeps baguettes, sandwiches, chips, chicken goujons, beef burgers, popcorn chicken, chicken fajita wraps and baked potato. This menu stays consistent and is served over the hot food counter.

    On the refrigerated side, where customers can grab and go, the store keeps Chicken Tikka, Tuna and Mexican Chicken Pasta, Homemade Lentil Soup, Vegetable, Minestrone soups, Homemade Coleslaw, Lasagne, Macaroni Cheese, Beef Stir-fry, Chicken Chow Mein, Chicken Tikka, Steak Pie, Cottage Pie, Stovies and a variety of Indian Curries and many more.

    To run the food section, the store has a full-time chef and five support staff in the kitchen while there are 12 staff in the retail side.

    “All these products are made fresh in-store using my or the chef’s recipes. We don’t focus on a particular cuisine. We try a variety of foods, and we see what sells, what doesn’t sell and get feedback from the customers and then decide accordingly,” he said.

    During lockdown, Umar decided to keep the food counter operational and with the help of two local churches, he managed to deliver food to pensioners and those in needs. At its peak, the store was delivering 50 meal packs a day.

    Umar practically grew up in the store, so his earliest memory is helping staff and giving out change. After graduating with an accountancy degree, he decided to join the family’s business and grow it further.

    “The shop has evolved in size since my parents purchased the store in October 1983, with three extensions to give more trading space. I love being a retailer and being my own boss.

    “Since I have been around the store all my life, a lot of the customers have seen our family and business grow. They say ‘’I remember you when you were a baby’ or ‘how is your older sister getting along now’ and it gives a personal touch with customers. I also enjoy interacting with regulars and getting to know customers personally, like my parents have done, to a stage when they become friends.”

    The store still has one staff member who has been with it for 38 years while one retired recently after 33 years’ service.

    Baba’s Kitchen also offers home delivery through Snappy Shopper app and now does around 250 deliveries a week.

    Exclusive: Decades-old c-store makes freshly-made food its USP

    However, it is developing an attractive food-to-go section that has been the real game changer, a distinguishing factor that makes the store a destination store that stands apart from others as well as from nearby multiple.

    The most important lesson Umar learnt from his parents about trading through challenging economic times is trust and honesty. To serve a community, one must share its pain and rejoice in its success, he feels.

    Taking away from the learning, Umar is making sure to support the community through cost-of-living crisis by offering deep cut promotions.

    “With the generation coming through, being active on social media, being involved with local clubs and charities gets your name and face out there and it shows that you care about your customers,” Umar told Asian Trader.

    “My dad and I are heavily involved with a lot of the local charities, football club, two schools and two churches. The community sees that either in person or on social media and they appreciate it and want to shop in your store,” he said.

    In 2020, Umar’s father Abdul Majid was awarded an MBE for his charitable work. His work includes being a fundraising board member of Maggie’s Cancer Care in Lanarkshire, a trustee of Bothwell Futures and a trustee of the local Mosque. He also regularly raises funds for the local St Andrews Hospice.

    “The motto I go by is ‘you grow with your community, you fall with them too’. If your community thrives, your business grows. And when the community struggles, you struggle with them,” Umar revealed.

    To further expand the business, Umar is already on to the next stage.

    “We have just put in a planning application to expand the size of the store and build a 22 space car park. Currently we have no parking at all. We have had a lot of support from the local community for these plans,” he said.

    Baba’s Kitchen is not just a store- it’s a culinary journey, a community hub, and a testament to the enduring spirit of local retail. As they say, change is the only constant, and for Baba’s Kitchen, the future looks as delicious as its present.

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