The London Fine Meat Company used to supply just caterers. Now it is supplying consumers too via a new online delivery service – and eyeing the high street. Simon Creasey reports

Stuart Ferretti has a big idea. He wants to create the butcher’s shop of the future.

In his store, meat won’t be hung from hooks attached to the ceiling or exposed to the elements in the bacteria breeding ground that is the shop window. It will be stored in a sophisticated temperature-controlled environment boasting specially-built cabinets that minimise the risk of cross-contamination.

It’s quite a vision. But before Ferretti can realise his dream, he needs to build his brand. To that end, he expanded his two-year-old business this year from one that just served caterers and restaurateurs to one also delivering to consumers in South West London via an online service.

“The idea of having an online butcher is new to some, but companies like Abel & Cole are selling meat and doing well out of it,” he reasons. “The difference is that we specialise. Everything is cut by us.”

It’s a deceptively simple idea and not one you’d necessarily expect from someone who cut his chops, so to speak, as a teenager at Sainsbury’s Streatham Common butcher’s counter. Stints at a catering butchers and a game dealer followed before Ferretti decided to branch out on his own.

As well as supplying restaurants and pubs, TLFMC supplies chains like Angus Steakhouse and it was from dealing with chefs that the idea for an online butcher service was born. “Chefs are more demanding than consumers, so we wondered if we could bring the quality of product and service that we offer catering customers to the home delivery market,” he recalls.

The ethos is to give customers quality meat at affordable prices on a par with what they might expect to pay in a high street butchers or supermarket and to offer classic cuts, not pricey ‘high-end’ products.

“Does somebody want to pay £35 for one chicken?” he asks. “How good is it ever going to be at that price? People want quality fresh meat and they don’t want to go hunting for a specialist butcher they can do it online. That’s the niche we can fill.”

And fill it they are. The new service is currently shipping 50 orders a day on average, of around £30 each. Ferretti aims to grow this 25-30% in the next three months and to one day generate half the company’s revenue from home delivery.

Next on the ‘to do’ list is the new butcher’s shop, which will allow the brand to “engage with customers more directly” in a more hygienic environment. Ferretti says he is appalled by most butchers today. “I don’t know whether people understand that meat should be kept at certain temperatures,” he says. “But there are a few butchers where I live and I see meat hanging up that’s unrefrigerated but people are queuing up to buy it. I wouldn’t tolerate that.”

The rub is that most consumers do and Ferretti accepts that success is not guaranteed. “I know the type of environment I would like to buy meat in, but I’m not representative of the public.”

Even so, he’s keen to give it a go. “It’s an interesting concept and one I’m going to test once we’ve built up the brand.”

If the early success of his new online delivery service is anything to go by, that shouldn’t take too long.