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Delicatessen makes the final cut in shake-up for top UK accolade

A Belfast delicatessen has won the regional heat of a UK-wide deli competition.

Arcadia Delicatessen on the city's Lisburn Road is now in with a chance of winning the overall title of UK Deli of the Year 2011.

Organised by Dorset-based food producer Olives et Al, this year's contest attracted over 400 nominations, which were whittled down to around 120.

A panel of food industry experts, including buyers, retailers and journalists, were tasked with judging the outlets to decide upon the regional finalists.

Arcadia will now be visited by a mystery shopper, who will score the south Belfast eatery on helpfulness, knowledge, quality of products stocked and customer service.

The shop will also be assessed for its 'deli attitude', described by the organisers as "what it is that a particular deli does differently to other retailers. What's your deli's mission? What keeps customers coming back time after time?"

The winner will be announced at The Great Taste Awards in London on September 5, described by some in the industry as the 'food Oscars'.

Owner Mark Brown said the family-owned business was "thrilled at this honour".

He said: "We work hard to provide our customers with quality foodstuffs from home and abroad. We believe we have a unique retail business and to be recognised by the industry UK-wide is fantastic."

Following headlines this week telling of retail gloom, Arcadia's owners and staff hope their new accolade will be a boost to the Lisburn Road, which has suffered its fair share of shop closures in recent months.

Mark said: "Trading conditions are undoubtedly tough for many but hopefully this win will highlight to everyone the quality of the retail offering that we have in areas such as the Lisburn Road.

"We, as independent retailers, are passionate about our business and I think it shows. The best should weather the financial storm. I only hope that the government, particularly on a regional level, will support independent retailers before it's too late for some."