Jamie Landale is a local farmer, with a herd of Red Deer which graze on the Perthshire moors just outside Comrie. He is also an entrepreneur, whose passion for food and where it comes from has been at the heart of his many successful business ventures.
The very latest of these is The Crieff Food Company, a bright, welcoming Food Hall and Café which offers a wide range of local and homemade produce as well as an extensive choice of Delicatessen products.
We met up with Jamie over a coffee in his busy café, to find out more about his new business and his driving ambition to put local and fresh produce from Crieff, firmly on the map.
How did you get started in the business?
I was working in London in 2003, and one day I just woke up and decided I was going to go into the event catering business. I booked in to cookery classes at the Tante Marie Culinary Academy, graduated and moved to Scotland, where I set up Wild Thyme, an events design and catering company. We won Scottish Independent Caterer of the Year and became one of the regions foremost caterers, winning Outdoor Caterer of the Year in 2008.
My true ambition however, was to expand into food production, supplying superior quality ready meals. I truly believe Scottish produce has so much to offer this industry, and in 2010, I sold Wild Thyme to my business partner to focus on this. It proved a difficult market to break into, despite the nearest rival being in Kent. However, partnering this ambition with a delicatessen business model allowed me to grow this idea, and we began by opening Delight Deli in Aberfeldy, with a mission to “provide an abundance of culinary delights, where visitors can sample and shop for fresh homemade and local foods that both excites and indulges. “
Mary, our extremely talented chef at Aberfeldy operates in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp, so when the opportunity arose to expand not only the business, but the size of the kitchen, we jumped at the chance and The Crieff Food Company was born.
Why is Crieff great for your business?
The focus of The Crieff Food Company is on promoting the remarkable variety of seasonal and local produce that is found in this beautiful part of Scotland. Every counter in the Food Hall is carefully curated with a fantastic selection of products from Perthshire and the Central Highlands. 65% of our suppliers are based within a 30-mile radius of Crieff. Our gift range is also 100% Scottish, and we are building links with local artists and makers with a desire to showcase the creative talent of the area as well as the culinary.
Our spacious new building is on the corner of Crieff’s historic Market Square and the busy High Street. Previously the home of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, it is unusual in the fact that it has two floors with doors on each, offering excellent access. It’s in an enviable position, and one of the reasons that we were keen to take on the long-empty site. The interior needed a lot of work to transform the space into what we wanted, but we are pleased with the flexibility of the layout. Our landlord has been very supportive, and has even invested in the long-term future of the business.
What makes an enjoyable day at work for you?
I like the variety; every day is different, and every day has its own challenges. I really enjoy chatting with customers and engaging with suppliers, looking for feedback we can build on. We have an enthusiastic team of local staff, and they love to be involved, planning new events and recipes.
What are you most proud of achieving with the business?
One of the most noticeable features in the Food Hall is our large supplier map. We have worked hard to create our list of suppliers and we pride ourselves in sourcing as much as possible locally. Developing the extensive network of suppliers has had benefits for all involved. Many drums beating together has helped spread the message of ‘buy local’ far and wide. We all delight in promoting each other, and one of the most successful developments in the business so far has been the introduction of our ‘Meet the Supplier’ events.
This is where the flexibility of our ground floor level really comes into its own, when we can transform the café into a demonstration space or recipe masterclass. Meeting the face behind the food really helps build customer loyalty, and gives our suppliers the opportunity to share their passion and knowledge about their product, as well offering our customers useful tips and recipes.
We’re aiming to put Crieff and the surrounding area firmly on the map as a destination for quality food. We want to work with local businesses, rather than in competition with them to achieve this. We took the decision not to include our own bakery as part of The Crieff Food Company, and instead we have an arrangement with local artisan specialists, Wild Hearth and Campbell’s Bakery to supply fresh bread daily.
What product do you recommend we try?
It’s very hard to recommend just one product, but locally the guys at Wild Hearth Bakery in Comrie and Strathearn Cheese make some awesome artisan products. Going further afield the wee dairy from the Isle of Gigha produces milk the way I remember it.
On your day off, what do you love to do?
The last few months has been manic and very busy, so when I do get time off I like to spend it with my children, doing the things that they like to do.
What’s the next step for The Crieff Food Co?
While we have had some teething problems that many new businesses experience, we have been delighted with the support and positive feedback from the people of Crieff.
Our new website has just gone just live, and we are working on a printed directory of our suppliers which will also help to promote The Crieff Food Company to new customers across Scotland. Collecting postcode data from our point of sale helps us understand where our customers are coming from, so we know word is spreading!
We’ll continue to build our programme of Masterclass and Meet the Supplier events, and are constantly looking to add to our supplier list with recommendations from our customers. Customers can keep up to date with all our news through the news section on our website, and we’ll be offering seasonal recommendations and recipes in future promotional newsletters.
It’s our ambition to be able to provide on-line sales of our home-made meals and who knows, maybe one day every major town across Scotland will have a Crieff Food Company in their High Street! Why not?
Get a taste of what’s on offer at The Crieff Food Co by visiting www.thecriefffoodco.co.uk