Virtual gourmets savour taste of website success

1st May 1998 at 01:00
From his Somerset delicatessen Roger Biddle caters for discerning palates worldwide via the Internet, writes Andrew Mourant.

He's sold smoked eels to Japan and Cheddar cheese to Poland - yet a group of IT students at Buckler's Mead comprehensive school in Yeovil have helped to put him more firmly on the virtual map.

Modern languages teacher Barbara Samuel - who shops at the deli - suggested that Mr Biddle subject his website to the scrutiny of her Year 10 students. And he has been delighted with the results.

"I got 24 e-mail responses from the kids - I wouldn't have believed how interested they are in virtual shopping. They pointed out that I didn't have a telephone number on the site and didn't have a map. I've implemented almost all their ideas," he said.

Head of IT Dennis Bagnall said: "Food has become a very popular topic in the media, though I was surprised by how much the exercise captured their imagination. I was also impressed with the maturity they showed in their criticism.

"Everyone was intrigued that a small local company should convey such esoteric information."

Mr Biddle, a former marine engineer, saw the Net as an alternative to posting price lists and newsletters while trying to build up a mail-order business. His website contains village gossip, a guide to local landmarks, and trenchant views on battery farming. "You have to give the site a character, or else people won't come again," he said.

A Year 7 modern languages class at Buckler's Mead also added some colour, designing posters of cheeses and other items with a French flavour. These were scanned into the system and then e-mailed to the site.

For Mr Biddle, e-mail trading is addictive. "I'd love to spend the whole day doing it but we do have a shop to run," he said. His address is

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