Simon Yearsley.


57 ¾.

What is your business called?

The Scottish Deli.

Where is it based?

The lovely Highland Perthshire village of Dunkeld & Birnam.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We are an award-winning speciality food shop and daytime café. Every night, we transform into “The Scottish Deli In the Evening” which is a 30-cover Scottish tapas restaurant. We also have “The Scottish Deli Feast”, which is a blossoming outside catering business.

To whom does it sell?

The residents of Dunkeld & Birnam are our most important customers. We are of course in a very seasonal location, and so in the spring, summer and autumn we have a huge influx of visitors from all around the world.

What is its turnover?


How many employees?


When was it formed?

Our shop was built in 1809 at the behest of the Duke of Atholl, who wanted there to be a village grocer’s shop in a prominent position at the newly built crossroads. Since then it has held pride of place in the village, and always been some sort of food, grocer, supplies shop. We bought the business in 2015, transformed it and added the important evening restaurant arm in 2017.

Why did you take the plunge?

I’d spent 20 plus years in the corporate world, ending up as a HR Director in a FTSE100 company until I saw the light and left in 2009. My wife and I realised that we wanted to, and believed we could, do more for ourselves rather than being a cog in a corporate wheel.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

We’d set up our own business, Big Tree Campervans, in 2009 when there were only two other companies renting out campervans in Scotland, but we had a belief that the sector could grow. Lots of folk said we were daft trying to create a tourism industry in Scotland out of campervan rental. I think we were right… and they were very, very wrong! With Big Tree Campervans running very successfully, we were keen for another challenge, and so bought The Scottish Deli in 2015.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Personal funds, plus a seven-year loan from Bank of Scotland.

What was your biggest break?

Winning the Great British Food Awards “Best Scottish Independent Retailer”in 2017. We were so, so delighted to see the hard work of the whole team recognised with such a great award. Then we won it again in 2018!!

What was your worst moment?

The first 24hours of lockdown. We had to change our business model very quickly, but without panicking, and with of course, absolutely no idea what the next few months would bring. It felt scary, with a horrible realisation that the health, if not the lives of our staff, our customers and ourselves were potentially at risk if we made the wrong decisions.

When lockdown was announced in March, in a matter of hours we had to refocus on being purely a food shop. As lockdown measures have gradually eased, we have reopened some aspects of the business, other than our daytime café. We feel it’s important to respond to both the spirit and the letter of social distancing guidelines and that our customers feel safe and comfortable and we couldn’t see how that would work with customers in the shop and café at the same time.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Watching customers react when they walk into our deli….it’s a magical building in a magical community. Also, having the freedom to come up with our own creative ways to run and develop our business.

What do you least enjoy?

Working too hard for too many hours.

What is your biggest bugbear?

People who post (thankfully for us, extremely rare!) negative reviews on social media rather than raise the issue at the time. I think some folk don’t realise how horribly damaging negative posts can be for small business owners. Of course, all businesses live in a world of social media, but it’s hard not to take it personally. Positive reviews, are of course, really lovely to receive!

What are your top priorities?

So, the Coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. Our top business priorities have now shifted to become: 1. Keep our staff, customers, and ourselves safe; 2. Play our role in the food solution for Dunkeld & Birnam; 3. Try not to lose too much money.

What single thing would most help?

We are working with our community to create a sustainable food plan for Dunkeld & Birnam. If anything, the lockdown has shone a light on the importance of local producers and local retailers, and we are proud to be working to shape this important approach to local, sustainable, affordable, healthy food. There also needs to be a focus on recognising the specific needs of rural and island businesses in Scotland, which face unique pressures in terms of locality, transport links, broadband connections and so on. Organisations such as GrowBiz have given us amazing enterprise support and are currently looking to build a specialised fund to help rural and island businesses rebuild after lockdown.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s called obesity. We need a strong government lead to work quickly with food producers, communities and local food retailers to start to tackle this crisis.

I feel lucky that we operate in the hospitality and tourism sector as the financial support packages available for firms amid the Covid-19 pandemic have been relatively strong. Not all sectors can say the same thing and I’m grateful we were able to access business rates relief and were also successful in applying to the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund. We’re very thankful for the furlough scheme as well, which has allowed us to retain our full and part time staff.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Put your team before yourself – always.

How do you relax?

Rock climbing and alpinism. I’ve been climbing all around the world for over 40 years, with a focus on putting up new climbs and exploring new areas. Battling your way up a new climb in winter on an unclimbed cliff in Scotland is a great way to focus the mind. As part of this, I’m proud to be one of Montane’s athletes. Montane have supported me in my climbing and mountaineering endeavours for many years.