How Venissimo Cheese Doubled Sales in 3 Years


The best cheese from all over the world comes from Venissimo Cheese in San Diego, California. In 2004, Gina Freize started the business with her husband in a single shop. Since then, it’s grown to three locations in the San Diego area, with 17 employees and an online store. Venissimo Cheese appeals to foodies and the common cheese lover alike. With a wide selection of international cheeses, from places like France or Italy, and special charcuterie board options that can be shipped all throughout the U.S., word of mouth has continued to be one of the strongest drivers of business growth for the store.

Gina and her husband decided to expand the business in 2009 by creating the Academy of Cheese in response to customers’ desire to learn more about their merchandise. Customers can book classes, wine pairings, and even international cheese tours — all from Venissimo’s website.

In an average week, Venissimo Cheese processes more than 300 transactions and hosts 10 events. In the course of a year, that translates to a wide range of customers, with about 19% of shoppers returning. But the continued growth left the Freize family with three unique challenges as it related to their point-of-sale system:

  • The point of sale needed to be able to connect to a scale or sell items by weight.
  • Each location needed to track and manage their own sales and inventory.
  • Marketing and customer data needed to be integrated to attract and retain customers.

Square for Retail became the single solution for Venissimo Cheese’s business challenges:

  • The POS makes it easy for them to receive cheese by the pound, sell by the pound or ounce, and connect a scale to the POS for fast checkout.
  • Managers at each location can stock inventory specific to their customer base.
  • Integrated Square Online, purchase history, and email marketing keeps customers engaged, and allows for new revenue streams.

Square for Retail streamlines her business so that she can take cross-location orders, manage inventory, scan barcodes, manage staff, and more — all in one place.

Venissimo Cheese currently uses:

Key stats:

  • More than doubled sales across all three physical locations and the online store
  • An email open rate jump of 1,233%, increasing from 3% open to consistently more than 40%, thanks to the Square Marketing integration with Square for Retail

Using Square made everything from inventory to customer interactions seamless

Inventory and purchase orders simplified

Each Venissimo Cheese location inventory is managed by the buyer at each store to ensure each shop has a localized feel. Store managers determine what inventory they need and prepare vendor requests through purchase orders. The North Park location also fulfills for the online store, so this location does the buying to supply both. Venissimo Cheese maintains just-in-time inventory, with minimal backstock to reduce waste and never miss a sale.

“I can just say that Square for Retail made us unequivocally more efficient.”

When the deliveries arrive, staff members reconcile the shipments against purchase orders and use a unique numbering system to enter cheese names and images into Square. Staff are not relied upon to spell out foreign cheese names or visually identify a photo of cheese in the POS buttons. They locate each cheese by this unique number and also use barcodes that come with grocery shelf items to speed up ordering and checkout.

The process is smooth and efficient, with multiple team members able to log into Square for Retail and manage inventory. Square for Retail allows Freize to facilitate staff workflows by granting responsibility levels within the platform so specific employees can check inventory or purchase orders from outside the physical store.

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Sales and customer interactions made easy

In-store guests take advantage of Venissimo’s generous sampling program and cheese monger expertise. Staff cuts exactly the amount of cheese a customer wants off a wheel, labels it with their customized SKU, and then weighs it at checkout. The connected scale communicates the information to the Square for Retail POS system and calculates the price to add to cart.

Shoppers may buy their first charcuterie tray through one of the shops, and then subsequently reorder from the website. They’ve added even more revenue with integrated online sales through event registration and shipped party tray orders.

“The ability to take an item, insert that into the newsletter so a person can click and buy right there … that’s just been phenomenal.”

Customer satisfaction

Freize is also fond of Square Marketing for email promos and newsletters. She can promote e-gift cards and physical gift cards that can be redeemed online or at the store.

The cornerstone of Venissimo’s business from the very beginning has also been tracking customer favorites. Most customers provide their name so they can come into any shop and get information about their previous purchases stored in the Customer Directory. This has been a big hit with their customer base.

They also reach out to previous customers to alert them if their favorites have been restocked. Venissimo consults its marketing lists, created based on sales of specific items, and sends personalized messages to specific groups.

Order anticipation when it matters most

There’s a big picture benefit as well: Square for Retail reports help Venissimo Cheese track what success looks like. Gina can run reports that show sales trends, cost of goods sold, individual item sales, and overall profit reports. Order anticipation matters most in preparing for the holidays, when Venissimo’s business increases fourfold. They look at the previous year’s cheese sales, accessories, and accouterments, placing POs based on those numbers.

“When we sell a class, we want to have a report to run really quickly that shows how many people signed up and how much revenue is generated. The default reports built into Square are completely suitable for us.”

Square for Retail, Square Online, and Square Marketing have not only helped create and manage efficient workflows for Venissimo Cheese, but the tools have also helped the bottom line. Square ensures that Freize has all the information she needs to keep track of customers, manage inventory quickly, and generate reports to help make better business decisions.