Husband-and-wife duo Ruby and Shakir Shakoor have been mastering retail since 1993, but it wasn’t until they opened their food-to-go kitchen that they realised they needed to learn how to connect with their younger customers.
After taking on Weaver Row Newsagents in Glasgow, the pair have focused their efforts on establishing their brand in the local area.
“My line of work was in the banking industry, so I had built up a lot of knowledge on how to deal with customers,” explains Shakir. “My parents were in retail all their lives, and when we had the opportunity to buy this shop, we never looked back.”
After acquiring two other businesses, the couple soon felt their shop had the potential to become more than just a newsagents.
“Six years ago, we bought the empty building that was next door to the shop,” explains Shakir. “We had always offered food to go, but really wanted to put our efforts into creating a separate brand.”
Ruby’s Little Kitchen was born in 2013, spearheaded by Ruby. With a Facebook following of more than 300 people, the ‘through the hatch’ offering has been a hit with secondary school pupils.
“I offer everything from Indian Pakistani food to hot burgers, chicken nuggets and chips,” says Ruby. “We offer the school children discount prices on meals, and at lunchtime they flock to us.
“It really works being next door to the shop because they tend to buy their food from me and then head into the shop to buy a drink, or some sweets, to go with their meal.”
Ruby communicates with her following on social media, regularly posting photos and videos of her meals and receiving food orders for the days ahead.
“My curry sauce has become famous around the area,” adds Ruby. “So many people ask me what the secret is, but I tell them that I’d lose my business if I told them.”
Building up personal relationships with their customers is something the couple pride themselves on.
“We started to get loads of requests for American confectionery, and I asked my customers what they would like us to stock,” says Shakir. “They said they would love to see the more unique flavours of Fanta, and the Berry flavour now flies off the shelves.”
However, dealing with school children hasn’t come without its challenges.
“We only let two children come into the store at once,” says Shakir. “Not only does this stop overcrowding, but it also means we can make sure we can visibly see each customer.”
The same rules apply for Ruby’s Little Kitchen. “I make them stand as a two when they are queuing for food,” adds Ruby. “They know that if they misbehave and don’t stick to the rules, then I won’t serve them.
“Besides, they only have an hour for their lunch break, so they know to behave in order to get their lunch.”
A Lidl is situated opposite the store, but the couple believes their offering is different enough to continue attracting customers.
“Most of the children go to Lidl to buy cold meats and baguettes, but they can’t get hot food there,” says Ruby.
“I like to think of it as a positive,” adds Shakir. “It does also attract people to the area that might not have had a reason to come before.”
Despite the success of the store, it doesn’t mean the pair haven’t been hit by the ever-increasing challenges of retail.
“Between 60-70% of our magazine titles are home delivered, and over the years I have noticed this dropping off,” explains Shakir.
“But we don’t like to dwell on this too much, and instead try out new things and ask our customers what they want from us as much as we can.”
One example being the new catering service Ruby’s Little Kitchen now offers. “I have started to take orders for parties,” says Ruby. “It’s all about expanding our brand.”