Bethan and I have fallen behind on our reviewing recently (working away, illness, poverty, the usual)
Just as we were deciding where to review next, I mentioned some of the excellent food I’d had from Lidl’s Deluxe range.
She surprised me by saying she’d been there recently as well. She had expected it to be cheap, but hadn’t expected it to be such good quality.
So we set off for Lidl together to share their best bargains with you.
Lidl isn’t a handsome shop from the outside.
You look at those bright, primary colours.
You remember its long-held reputation (poor food for poor people) and wonder if its that different to Iceland next door.
But once you’re in, it’s better.
You’re greeted by a big display of fresh flowers and an extensive, well-priced selection of chocolate.
I was very taken by how attractive it looked, so took a photo.
A member of staff appeared from nowhere and politely asked us not to take photos.
We moved on to the instore bakery.
Most people don’t expect there to be an instore bakery, and certainly not such a good (and well-priced one)
“Take a picture of it!” hissed Bethan
“I can’t!” I hissed back
We looked around. There was nobody about. I took this picture.
Doesn’t it look nice. Much classier than their garish outside implies.
I felt a hand on my shoulder.
A polite but firm young man in a suit asking us to leave.
We tried to explain why we were there, that we love their food, that we were writing a blog praising them to the skies.
But he wasn’t interested.
“We asked you politely not to take photos, you still did, so you have to leave.” (fair point)
And in a moment, we were out on the street.
This was a shame, because we wanted to show our readers (and we’ve just had our 10,000th) some of the great stuff they have
We do have some photos of food we have bought (assuming Lidl don’t mind us photographing their food at home)
So we’ll show you those, and then look at why Lidl are so paranoid about photos.
You can barely get a whole leg for £40 in Spain, and sliced up from the deli it can cost £5 per 100g.
Carving is trickier than you might think – if you go too thick, it’s too chewy. You need it almost transparant, so you need a good knife.
But you’ll soon have the hang of it – my grandson did and he’s only cut one finger off so far
This cheese selection has been a great buy too.
Cheddar, manchego, blue stilton, Wensleydale with cranberries and French brie.
Not huge pieces, but for a fiver it’s silly money
Their olive oil is excellent too.
We had an excellent buffet for six for not much money (and we’re still eating the Serrano ham now, weeks later)
You might have guessed that we’re big fans of the Deluxe range.
Yes, on our last visit, there was a tattoo’d ruffian drinking lager in the checkout queue. And there is a vast amount of unhealthy crisps and biscuits to help keep Britain obese.
But lots of Lidl’s food rivals high-end shops for quality, but not for price.
So why are they paranoid about photos?
I initially thought they imagined we were from a rival supermarket, doing research, or maybe we were journalists doing a story about horsemeat (Lidl were fingered in the scandal, but so were many others) (and what’s so bad about horsemeat? I like it)
However, The Guardian and The Times have both run stories claiming camera surveillance of employees is widespread in Lidl.
They claim detailed files are kept on employees.
Workers are not allowed to join trades unions (it has been convicted of anti-union activity in Italy) and managers have to sign a waiver opting themselves out of the EU Working Time Directive (maybe that’s why the manager we met wasn’t so chatty)
Lidl doesn’t pay suppliers less for its products – it saves money by getting more out of each employee.
Morrisons may put out an announcement every five minutes begging “Till-trained staff to checkout” but you can see immediately there are more staff there.
I’ve never seen a manager out on the floor of Lidl, except when they were throwing us out.
The staff are kept under pressure, and very closely monitored, but pay rates are good so they put up with the bullshit. And there’s a good team spirit in the shop.
Leaving products in their boxes saves Lidl a lot of time, and customers accept that things will move around the shop and even vanish.
The display of fresh flowers, and an in-house bakery, show Lidl at a crossroads – are they trying to be more like the big supermarkets?
And they have to sort out their booze – it’s terrible (unlike Aldi who are excellent)
EDIT – 27 MAY 2014
Just popped in for more of their excellent peanut butter, and was dismayed to see that the big “Deluxe” display had gone.
It had been replaced by a completely random selection of things like drill bits and flasks
Lidl had a winner with their Deluxe range, why they’ve thrown it away is a mystery to me