Flood Lights Up Lisburn – Major kitchen extension makes for a winning combo at Nisa Nettlehill

Flood Lights Up Lisburn – Major kitchen extension makes for a winning combo at Nisa Nettlehill

Lisburn – like all towns and cities – has had a tough year for business, but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel – as we can hopefully see the end of lockdown up ahead.

As forecourts and convenience stores were allowed to stay open and keep trading, it was also a time when many took the opportunity to take forward expansion plans, make good on ideas and aspirations – to bring a little light back in to our economy and society.

The owner of Nisa Nettlehill on the Pond Park Road in Lisburn John Flood decided to make good on his plans to build a large extension to their deli kitchen – and focus on making the deli as good as it could possibly be. And with everything in life, you get out what you put in – now, Nisa Nettlehill is reaping the rewards of its efforts.

John Flood – a keen runner – knows that endurance, perseverance and a steady pace wins the race. He explains to NR how this exciting deli development came about.

Lindsay Haslem and John Flood

Praise for staff

“ We’ve built a full new production kitchen instead of working out of a pokey little room, where we had been working 18 hours a day across three shifts, seven days a week, making everything for the deli and the pre-packed range. Doing our own range in-house gave us an edge on the competition, and it really took off.

“The new production facility went live at the end of January and we are really proud and delighted with it,” said John.

“I simply can’t praise my staff enough – they have been amazing through it all. What you put in, you get out – and the staff have really put everything in to making this happen.”

John Flood first rented the site way back in 2003, then bought it over three years later. At that stage it was just a small corner shop and forecourt. In 2015 it was demolished and rebuilt with a new filling station – incorporating the deli.

“The whole shop has been a success story since then,” said John. “The deli outgrew all our expectations. From working out of a small room upstairs, making pies, bakes, lasagnes – all the simple core items that are popular with customers – to what we have now in the new facility, is fantastic.”

Strong and steady

With long opening hours and a strong and steady clientele, last year they decided to buy the house next door. Planning permission was applied for – to enable more car parking spaces and approved for the extension to the shop and to build the full new production kitchen.

“We will start work on the extension to the shop next year – making it forty per cent bigger.

“It’s been amazing to see the difference that the new deli and production kitchen has made to the business. We had been working out of a pokey room and now we have this fantastic facility.

“Having our own deli means we have the flexibility to do whatever we want. We can respond to new food trends immediately – allowing us to give the customers what they want, when they want it. Our daily menu will have all the core items like the curries and stews – but we’re also able to add on new ideas and concepts, like crispy chicken or street food – whatever the latest trend happens to be. That’s what I love about being in control of our own deli.”

Cooking is in Flood’s blood. When he left school he started out working for McAnearney brothers in Armagh.

“They had an in-store bakery and offered me a position in the kitchen. They put me through catering college in Belfast, learning bakery, pastry and so on. I won a few awards and competitions in my late teens. Then I went off and did a bit of travelling, before coming back and renting this place in Lisburn.”

Building the business

From there, John says he just kept on building the business up and up – but he is the first to admit, it’s not all down to him – but to the staff who he says, he simply can’t praise enough.

“They have all been brilliant team players and have done a fantastic job. They work hard, are loyal – we have a low turnover of staff. Our site manager Carrie Evans has been with me since the beginning and is just fantastic. Of course my wife Julie looks after everything at home and is a huge support – we’ve four children aged 21, 7 and 12 year old twins so it’s a busy life.”

John starts the day at 5.15am. Running a business with long hours requires a high level of fitness and endurance – so he starts the day with a good run – which any runner will know, gives you plenty of energy to face the day, along with the physical and mental stamina required to stay on top of many spinning plates – as the business is open from 6.30am until 10.30pm.

“Your health is your wealth at the end of the day” he says.

Keep it simple

When it comes to the deli, John is a big believer in keeping it simple – sticking to the core favourites – like curries, stews, noodles, chicken bakes. Yet there’s always room for creativity and new and interesting products – like Jalapeno breads, tomato slabs, new spreads and sandwiches all make for a delicious, mouth-watering display.

In the shop, ‘everything earns its keep’ is how John but it. The space is used efficiently and effectively.

Site manager Carrie Evans

Nisa relationship

The Nisa relationship is a perfect fit for the business. With over 2000 Co-op own brand items available, the range is extensive yet the relationship enables John to keep his own control of the business.

“Being a part of Nisa is a great support. The Nisa model works well for us – we still have our freedom, I’m still my own boss – but have an excellent supply channel. Since Co-op bought over Nisa and started introducing new products – the Irresistable lines are the tops – no complaints there – as good a quality as anything in M&S.”

Big investment

The new production kitchen has been a big investment for the business. John also has praise for Carol McGready at Danske Bank and his accountant Paddy McKeown at PMK Accountancy, who specialises in accountancy services for the retail sector.

“They have been great to work with. I seem to be really fortunate with having a great team around me and I simply can’t stress the importance of that enough. My staff are just brilliant – all through Covid they have been great with customers, always have a friendly word and a smile. Our customers have been so supportive, as have our suppliers.

“I’m mainly in the back office, with a close eye on the deli and shop floor – but I know that the staff simply get on with the day to day running of the business.

‘Chimney pots’

“I’m also fortunate in that we are located in an area where there are a lot of ‘chimney pots’ – families, houses, all demographics from young people to the elderly.

“The staff focus on the customers and create a lovely warm, friendly atmosphere – that’s the secret to success at the end of a busy day, as they say.”