On a roll

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changing. One clear example of this is in Eastbourne, on England's south coast, where owner of the Pie & Sausage Shop is looking for franchisees to expand his brand and is even experimenting with offering vegetarian options in his range, such as quiches.

Bob Young currently has two shops in the East Sussex town and is expanding his retail catchment area soon. "We're opening up another franchise in Brighton in the next couple of months and we are looking at other areas in Sussex as well."

Bob explains that, in particular, he concentrates on quality to keep his customers coming back. This applies to all his products, right down to his sausage rolls. "We just sell top-quality, lean products. We don't put any rubbish in it and it's cuts of legs of pork that we generally use. The reason we sell as much as we do is because of the quality. We're not going at the really ridiculous top-end, we are going at a price and quality where people recognise that is worth paying a little extra for."

Bob's colleague Nigel Knight is the chief sausage roll-maker for the town centre shop, where the products retail at 1.60. Although a well-known high street bakery nearby sells sausage rolls for practically half that price, Nigel concurs with Bob that people will still want to buy a better-quality product if it is worth it, even during times of austerity. "People who can afford a bit more buy these and they come back time and again. It has grown from probably a dozen a day to what we're doing now in the space of three or four months." The shop makes to up to a 100 a day, but in the pre-Christmas rush this was up to 120-150.

Just as the headlines in the past month were littered with news of rising food costs and inflation, the Pie & Sausage Shop is looking at its 1.60 price tag for sausage rolls and considering pushing it up, as the cost of raw materials, such as pastry, has gone up. The dilemma for a butcher like Bob is whether to raise his product prices as the materials to make them get pricier or look for cheaper options, potentially reducing the quality of the product as a result.

"The problem is that we want to hold on to the quality," he says. "It's very easy to make cheaper sausage meat, but then the sausage roll suffers. Because you've got all that fat in it, you can usually tell when you eat it the meat collapses whereas this is nice solid lumps of meat. This has only lean meat in it and people, once they've tried it, come back for more."

Nigel adds: "This is not what we say about it, it's what the customers say about it. It's the customers' word-of-mouth that spreads through the railway station over there, the Post Office sorting office and the various local government offices nearby.

"So many people come through the course of the day to buy these. And, once they buy them and see everything else we're selling out there, the sausage rolls are actually a catalyst for people to purchase other products. Then, once they've tried the other products, you've got them hooked."