The most striking feature of The Alberts Deli in Richmond is its art nouveau frontage. I have seen few like it in this country and apparently it came originally from France via a shop in Kew. Looking at the deli from Sheen Road, the lattices are foreshortened giving the effect of a little bit of Central Europe in this very English streetscape. Worple Way itself joins the busy Sheen Road like a tributary into a river and the view towards the deli from Sheen Road with the Red Cow pub at the apex feels like it’s not changed much in a hundred years. Behind a high wall at the Entrance to Worple Way is a group of Almshouses, built in 1757 by two daughters of the first governor of The Bank of England, Sir John Houblon. Even though you’re close to the old road into London, there is a sense of peace and tranquillity about the area.
The deli started up five years ago and its reputation has spread not just in Richmond, but further afield. Last year, The Alberts won the ‘Deli of the Year’ award for the London region – an amazing feat when you consider the competition there must be for that trophy. To me, the reason for their success is evident as soon as you walk in. Everything is freshly prepared on the day. Many delis you walk into, they’re fine, but you get the feeling that they rely on produce that does not require too much preparation and which will keep for a few days. This is not The Alberts way. Every day the counters are heaving with freshly-prepared dishes: salads, soups, tarts, pies, frittatas, quiches, fishcakes… there is always a fresh surprise. If I were a local, I’d stick my head in the door every day just to have a look, because owner and manager Cathy-Sue is as good on colour as she is on taste. All the food at The Alberts is so vivid that I would have said she had spent a long time in the deserts of North Africa. The sandwiches too are splendid, generous and incredibly good value. A ploughman could go till sundown on a steak and gruyere sandwich from the Alberts.
Like many delis and coffee shops, The Alberts used paper stampcards. However, some time ago, one of their customers, valuing their rewards and not wanting to add another card to their wallet, asked if they could keep their card behind the counter. Very soon lots of customers were asking for the same. Before long, the large mirror behind the till was covered with cards and staff had to search through them to find the right one. That system got out of hand so they transferred all the cards to an old index file until they found they were spending far too much time searching for cards when the shop was very busy. They needed something different. Loyalzoo fitted the bill because it is the only system that does away with paper altogether. The customer checks in on the phone and the name pops up on the shop’s tablet. One tap and the stamp is given. Rewarding regular customers is important for The Alberts and Loyalzoo lets them do it in a simple and uncomplicated way.