Shoppers at Croots Farm Shop and Café in Derbyshire are helping to shape the business’s future and its commitment to quality and great customer service.
The shop and café, which first opened in June 2008, asked randomly-selected customers what they liked about Croots and where improvements could be made.
In the shop, the butchery counter emerged as a firm favourite with its commitment to locally sourced meat – scoring ten out of ten. While the café’s full English breakfasts and cakes were overwhelmingly singled out as a reason to visit.
Co-owner Kay Croot, who joined the business full-time in 2015 after 25 years with major national and international retail brands, said that while using focus groups was common practice for large corporations, it was rare for smaller businesses.
“Successful retailers have to give great quality at the right price, but they must also offer fantastic customer service,” said Kay, who runs the business based at Farnah House Farm, Wirksworth Road, Duffield, with husband Steve.
“And the best way to achieve that is by putting our customers at the heart of decision-making. We wanted to know what we were doing well and where we could make things better, either by improving customer service or by improving the range of products and attractions.”
Visitors taking part in the feedback sessions overwhelmingly praised Croots’ helpful and friendly butchers for the quality and range of locally-sourced products as well as their willingness to cut to the customer’s requirements, responding to individual requests and giving advice for the best results in the kitchen.
This was reflected in the Croots café where the popular cooked breakfasts featuring local sausages and bacon were praised. Customers also highlighted the cheese scones and the “too tempting” cakes as well as the relaxing atmosphere and great views over the Derbyshire countryside.
Croots Farm Shop will now consider the feedback in detail, particularly looking at suggestions for a range of improvements, and will carry out further customer research online with a larger group of customers.
“We wanted to understand what people really wanted from us, so we encouraged open, straightforward feedback, particularly about what we might change in the future and how we can continue to offer the best range of products and services.
“More ready meals and more organic vegetables, a bigger range of gluten-free products, items suitable for diabetics, an expanded deli counter and reducing delays during particularly busy spells were all themes raised,” said Kay.
“People also came up with some great ideas. Themed nights in the café, a picnic area for the summer, extending the children’s play area and the possibility of an animal petting area were all suggested.
“The themes raised by customers provide us with a strong starting point for wider customer research in which we will be considering many of the ideas put forward but it was interesting to note that our customers were adamant the farm shop ethos should remain at the heart of our business and any developments. We will be carrying out further customer research online to test the ideas with a larger group of customers.”
Forty-five customers took part in two feedback sessions. Other key findings include:
- On a scale of one to ten, with ten being great quality with helpful and friendly staff, the butchery counter scored ten and the deli counter scored nine
- The café offered great quality but was sometimes too busy
- The focus should be on fresh produce across the shop – meat, deli, fruit and vegetables and dairy – with perhaps fewer grocery items and gifts
- Customers recognise prices are sometimes higher than at supermarkets but appreciate higher quality and that many items are now available in mainstream outlets
- All staff are friendly, helpful and chatty but the butchery team “take things to a different level”.
Croots Farm Shop has won numerous awards for its products, and Steve Croot was named Derbyshire Local Food Hero 2014 at the Derbyshire Food and Drink Awards. In the 2016 Derbyshire Life Food and Drink Awards, Croots won the accolade of Outstanding Ambassador for Local Produce in Derbyshire.
Last year, Croots also won the People’s Choice in the Midlands Award in the Family United Business Awards.
Kay Croot has recently joined the board of directors of FARMA, the trade association supporting farm retail.
It is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm (Shires Eatery until 4.30pm) and from 10am to 4pm on Sundays. Croots runs Fresh Fish Thursdays between 9am and 1pm on Thursdays.