Solihull fine food retailer Eric Lyons in national expansion drive

Feb 28, 2022 | Ladder News, News

Eric Lyons Splendid Foods in Knowle is launching a national delivery service supported by new apprentices
Butchery and farm shop has teamed up with Ladder campaign to hire apprentices as part of post-covid plan to take its food offering across the UK

A family-run butcher and fine foods company which was founded almost 120 years ago is embarking on a national expansion.

Eric Lyons Splendid Foods is based in Knowle where it sells dairy products, fruit and veg, sauces and ready meals alongside the traditional butcher’s fare of meat products.

It is also embracing the apprenticeship model with plans to recruit new apprentices this year, having become an employer partner of the Ladder for Greater Birmingham campaign.

Mr Lyons, 26, said: “When covid happened we set up a new website and started doing loads of deliveries locally within a five-mile radius which is still going really well.

“But we had to face the tough decision of what we were going to do as a business going forward so it was either launch the delivery service nationally or open another store.

“We were going to open in Touchwood in Solihull town centre but decided opening another site would be much harder and doing the delivery service was more financially sensible and feasible.

“Over the past six months, I’ve been learning about how we are going to courier them all over the UK and run the website but without damaging the local business.”

Eric Lyons first opened in 1903 on the exact same site where it is still based today in Knowle’s High Street and Mr Lyons’ grandparents used to live in the accommodation above the shop which is now offices.

Now employing 15 staff, the site houses a kitchen where all its pies, sausages and ready meals are made, a butchery and farm shop and it also sells hot drinks and food to takeaway while future planned work will see a new pot washer and blast chiller installed.

It even has vegetarian products including pies which it created as part of a sponsorship deal with Solihull Moors FC which launched last year.

Mr Lyons, whose younger brother and father are also directors and shareholders of the business, studied at Birmingham College of Food after which he worked as a chef, bakery manager and a butcher before turning his hand to day-to-day running of Eric Lyons.

Looking ahead, he is now planning to hire additional apprentices to the two already employed as he looks to grow the payroll to support the company’s expansion.

Mr Lyons is working with West Midlands training provider Performance Through People and the Ladder for Greater Birmingham campaign which was launched in partnership with our sister website BirminghamLive in 2018 to connect apprentices with training providers and employers.

He said the company was becoming increasingly busy during the covid lockdowns so placed two existing members of staff onto butchery and bakery apprenticeships which are due to complete early next year.

They are also playing an integral role in the launch of the new national delivery service.

“With going national on our deliveries, we are looking to do 20 deliveries a week and scale up from there so expect to hire one or two more apprentices this year,” he said.

“This will definitely create new jobs and we are also increasing our marketing activity to drive people to our website.

“We will definitely be working with the Ladder and I’ll need help getting apprentices on board in fields such as bakery, e-commerce or customer service.”

Rob Colbourne is chief executive of training provider Performance Through People which is working with the company on its apprenticeship programme.

He said: “This is a perfect example of how the apprenticeship programme can support employers to upskill existing staff or recruit new ones with a nationally recognised training programme to follow.

“There are no recruitment fees and the majority of the training programme is funded by the Government and, in some cases, 100 per cent funded with extra grants to contribute to the initial salary payments.

“The Ladder will continue to work with individuals and employers of all sizes, to match individuals to vacancies or internal opportunities supporting the region to get back on track after the challenging two years we have all been through.”

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