BUYING a business during a pandemic was ‘incredibly risky’, admits the new owner of a city centre deli.

But Stephen Dudley who took over Henshelwoods Delicatessen September 2020 kept the business beside Shambles Market open during lockdown and adapted to survive.

Since then, he has successfully launched hampers for special occasions, with four firm favourites - Sweet Somethings, Yorkshire Goodies, Sweet and Savoury Favourites and Boozy Box - available all year.

The deli also started serving refreshments to passing trade and introduced new product lines such as Rosebud Preserves, Baytown Coffee and vegan chocolate lines designed to attract a new community of food lovers.

And outdoor tables for alfresco dining are likely to become a permanent fixture after Stephen secured permission from the council.

He has now also launched a range of picnics in response to growing demand for individual food boxes for business lunches and virtual meetings.

“Purchasing a business in the middle of a pandemic was incredibly risky but, thanks to our dedicated staff and loyal customer base, we’ve battled through and are optimistic about the future," said Stephen.

“The historic Shambles boasts a plethora of incredible independent foodie outlets and my mission is to work collaboratively with local businesses to galvanise the existing offering and help create an exceptional food court in this picturesque part of York."

He added: "It certainly feels like the pandemic has altered the landscape for corporate hospitality irrevocably. Despite restrictions easing and work places on the verge of tentatively welcoming staff back, I believe the days of sharing platters of sandwiches, cake and fruit and bowls of crisps for business lunches are unlikely for the foreseeable future.

“Safety is at the forefront, hence businesses are procuring individual picnic hampers and I believe the trend is here to stay. Over recent weeks we’ve supplied business lunches to companies who have delivered to their employees homes for virtual meetings. We’re also witnessing increasing numbers of discerning consumers treating themselves to our quality picnics as they begin socialising once again.”

The picnics, from £15 per person, include food and beverages from Yorkshire suppliers.

Options include Henshelwoods Lux Picnic, Cheese Ploughman’s, Traditional, Country Pate, Vegetarian, English, Italian, Antipasto and Mediterranean. A selection of optional extras are available such as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, rocket and parmesan salad, wooden cutlery and napkins.

Henshelwoods Delicatessen is a purveyor of cheese, charcuterie, pate, preserves, chutney, soup, sandwiches, freshly baked pies, sausage rolls, quiche, Scotch Eggs, biscuits, crackers, teas, fresh coffee, cakes and brownies.