An Expert view with…

StephenSTEPHEN HALLAM

MANAGING DIRECTOR, Dickinson & Morris Pork Pies

AS A FAMOUS PORK PIE MAKER IN MELTON MOWBRAY,
WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN GROUP TRAVEL

In recent years, the British public have become much more discerning about the food they eat and its provenance. Also changing is the somewhat British trait of keeping good things a secret! Because the French and Italians have a strong culture of enjoying all aspects of producing and eating food (and shouting about it too), there’s a perception that you have to go to France or Italy to find good food. Well, let it be known that we have fantastic food in Britain! And consumers are increasingly hungry for the knowledge that the food producers themselves can provide. At Dickinson & Morris Pork Pies, we want to meet this demand. This works particularly well for groups, who will often have a specific interest in food or Melton Mowbray’s history, and are keen to learn more about it in a hands-on way and experience something special.

WHAT DO YOU OFFER GROUPS?

At Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe in Melton Mowbray, we have a range of experiences ranging from daytime demonstrations of the art of hand-raising a pork pie to evening ‘parties’, when we offer groups (of between 18 and 50 people) the chance to raise a pork pie for themselves. For the latter, the pies are then baked overnight and can be collected the next day. Buffets are available too and there’s always time for questions about pork pies, Melton Mowbray and Dickinson & Morris.

WHAT GUIDES YOUR POLICY AND PRACTICE IN MARKETING TO GROUPS?

We have created a USP for the business by making sure our bakers are at the forefront of our public persona. Nobody will speak more passionately or knowledgeably about a pork pie than the baker that has skilfully mixed the pastry, selected the correct cuts of pork, diced and seasoned the meat, expertly moulded the pastry shell and then lovingly created the pie for baking. Not forgetting that after baking, the pie is filled with a jelly that’s taken four or five hours to prepare. There’s no better way to attract the group market than by demonstrations of the skills involved at the regional group tourism shows, which give GTOs a taste of the finished product and the artistry that their members will see on a visit. We partner with other local food and drink businesses to share the costs and resources required to man the stands, and I would suggest that other tourism businesses look to do this too. Visitors to any show are frequently faced with rows of similar and often mundane looking stands. Memorable stands (and therefore successful for both exhibitors and GTOs) are usually those with ‘kerb appeal’ and theatre, aided by enthusiastic, helpful and engaging staff.

HOW DO YOU WORK WITH LOCAL BUSINESSES AND THE COUNCIL IN PROMOTING TOURISM?

Melton Mowbray is still a true market town – there are four every week – with 1,000 years of history built on a strong tradition of farming. Tuesdays are the day to see Melton Mowbray at its vibrant best with a huge cattle and street market. The town is famous not just for Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese but also Melton Red Beer, Melton Hunt Cake, Red Leicester Cheese, Elderflower Cordial and so much more. Over the years, culinary events have been developed by both the council and enterprising bodies – including the Melton Mowbray Food & Drink Festival, the British Pie Awards and the largest artisan cheese fair in the UK. Businesses and the council have worked together to develop a unique identity for the town as the Rural Capital of Food and Drink and this year we are recommending the Taste of Leicestershire Short Break to enable visitors to experience the delights of Melton Mowbray, including its quirky shops and stunning countryside, with an overnight stay in a prestigious hotel or B&B.

Stephen Hallam studied for a National Diploma at the National Bakery School before joining Dickinson & Morris in 1992. He was at the forefront of a campaign to win protected geographical status for the iconic pie, so now only pork pies from a defined area can carry the Melton Mowbray tag. At the CLA Game Fair in 2013, this was recognised when he was given the award for Outstanding Contribution to Food.