Originally printed in the March 2020 issue of Produce Business.
Esteemed butcher-grocery transforms itself with fine foods and impressive produce.
Family-owned Bryan’s Quality Meats traces its roots back to the late Bryan Flannery, a butcher of choice for San Francisco’s refined cooks for decades who opened his own store in the 1960s. After several moves due to urban development (and after his death), his sons Peter, Terrence and Bryan took over the business ending up in the current location in Laurel Village, Pacific Heights.
The 15,000 square foot store has become a destination for high quality produce, prime meats and seafood and top-notch prepared foods. “We started with a focus on meats and then added fresh foods and produce,” says Peter Chierici, produce buyer for the upscale retailer. “Our forte is perishables and fresh cooked food.”
The store serves the local neighborhood but draws shoppers from all over the area. “Our reputation appeals to many customers even as far as Marin county,” says Chierici. “We serve a lot of professionals, private chefs and families; and we see quite a few celebrities and politicians too.”
The store concentrates on high-end products and specialty items. “We know what our customers want, and we put the extra effort into procuring what meets their needs,” says Chierici. “Our motto is ‘Buy with Confidence’ and ‘Serve with Pride.’ ”
The produce section makes up about 400 square feet of the store and contributes to about 30% overall store sales. “Produce is very important,” says Chierici. “Shoppers want fresh produce and they want something they can’t get anywhere else. We carry items no one else seems to want to sell and we sell them — and with very little shrink. We currently have about 120 items in produce.”
Chierici buys 100% of Bryan’s produce from the San Francisco wholesale markets.
Chierici thinks of the business as curating produce. “Every little foot of our counter counts,” he says. “So, we must make the most of displaying the most attractive, highest quality, most interesting products. I’ll show off the fruit by making big displays. We also cut the fruit and let shoppers taste it.”
For merchandising, the store uses a combination of wet racks and dry tables. “A wet rack runs the length of the space with a dry table in the middle and another set of dry tables on the end,” says Chierici. “I build large endcap displays or an entrance display for things I know are really good.”
The store utilizes some refrigerated cases for fresh-cut and convenience items. “We cut our own fruit in the store,” says Chierici. “We also prep packages of broccoli florets, mushrooms, arugula, spring mix under our own name. We have a person doing this all day long. It’s pretty big demand.”
The wet rack always stays the same, but dry table product is switched around depending on seasons. “I’m constantly changing to showcase what we want to highlight,” says Chierici.
Chierici buys 100% of Bryan’s produce from the San Francisco wholesale markets. “I used to buy direct from growers, but product and deliveries can be inconsistent,” he says. “Also, when I go to the wholesale market, I hand-pick everything. I open the box myself, check the quality and taste it.”
The store’s principal criteria when sourcing produce are quality and taste. “The reputation of the wholesaler is also important,” says Chierici. “Some of my sources save stuff just for me because they know I’m coming down, so they’ll put it aside.”
Chierici also places great emphasis on seasonality when sourcing. “I don’t carry most fruit until the respective season starts,” he says. “We really try to follow the seasonality, so everything is at peak taste.”
The store translates sourcing decisions for customers. “We talk and interact with people in the store,” says Chierici. “Customers come in, come right to me and ask ‘Pete, what’s good?’ The recommendation from us means a lot — for example Muscat grapes. Customers won’t just buy those, but if I recommend them and sample them, they sell great.”
Bryan’s Quality Meats
3445 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Hours: Monday – Saturday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Closed Sunday