How Butcherman took a slice of the online food market

While buying meat online might not sound like it would make for a successful business venture, it has been for Paul Tory at Butcherman.

Tory and his father, Cris Tory of Total Meats, were already supplying meat to restaurants, pubs, hotels and clubs around Sydney when they had the idea of servicing time-poor consumers as well.

Tory said Butcherman was one of the first online meat suppliers on the market in Sydney and is now into its sixth year of operation. He told Computerworld one of the greatest challenges of the online business wasn’t in setting up systems or navigating security concerns, but in changing the mindset of the public. When it comes to food – meat in particular – consumers like to choose it themselves.

“They want to go to their local butcher shop, point to a piece of meat and say ‘I’ll have that one’ … That is the single biggest thing stopping people ordering their meat online,” Tory said.

On the technical side of things, Tory was adamant he did not want to retain customers' credit card details. However, this posed challenges due to the nature of cutting meat. For example, consumers might ask for a 500g piece of rump steak at $10/kg, expecting to pay $5.00. However, they may actually get a 580g piece, costing more. To avoid storing credit card details, Butcherman sets the exact price beforehand and cuts all meat to be slightly over what the customer orders.

It was challenges like this which Tory said he has managed himself – he hasn’t had support from any other online businesses.

Tory would like to eventually include an online order tracking system so customers can log on and track their order instead of calling him. However, he concedes this won’t happen in the near future due to its cost. In the meantime, Butcherman’s delivery vehicles are equipped with a GPS so he can view where trucks are. Tory may also expand the number of delivery time options in the future.

The back-end of the online system is constantly changing, Tory says. “It’s forever offering me more reports and more [information] like where they found me [and] the most clicked on items. It’s interesting that the most clicked on items might be a cut of wagyu beef, but it might not necessarily be the most purchased item. So that helps us with offering specials for those sorts of products.”

Tory also wants the company’s social media presence to grow; he said it has been an effective means of advertising.

“If you advertise on Facebook, they can immediately click to your website and place an order. We’re very much targeting online users,” he said.

Word-of-mouth is also being used to advertise the business in a referral system #8212; customers receive a $5 credit for every order a friend makes.

While some consumers may still be reticent to order perishable goods online, Tory said online food retailers will grow.

“The fruit industry is already big… Butcher shops are doing the same thing, but they’re coming from a butcher shop angle where they’re just a one-off butcher shop trying to do their local area. They don’t buy the same sort of bulk as what we do.

“I have a friend who lives in America who said he orders absolutely everything online. I think we’re still 10 years behind them, but we’re heading that way.”

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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