Family Focus Helps Deli Flourish

At Blake's Deli, seafood specials and southern cooking attract customers.

Family Focus Helps Deli Flourish

May 2024   minute read

By: Al Hebert

Above: Blake McDonald, left, and his grandson, Nick Robichaux, right, are at the heart of the food program

There are over 152,000 convenience stores in the U.S., and many of them are alike. But it would be hard to replicate the close family feel and culture at Blake’s Deli in Louisiana, where the owners of the second-generation family business make customers and employees alike feel like they’re right at home.

Brothers Randy and Bubbie Robichaux took over the company their father Blake McDonald started more than forty years ago, and now own two locations—one in the Adventure Truck Plaza in Thibodeaux, Louisiana, and the other in a truck stop in Vacherie, Louisiana.

Forty years after starting the deli in the 1980s, Blake himself can still be found cooking its food each day. His home cooked southern menu and weekly specials draw in customers for breakfast burritos, the deli’s famous po’boys and seafood plate lunches.

At Blake’s Deli, it’s all about making the customers feel like part of the Robichaux family too.

“We have great customer service. It’s a small company, so it’s easy to be hands on. My father goes to every store each day. You can’t do that at a big company. People that work for us care,” said manager John Henry Robichaux, Randy’s son.

It Starts at The Counter

Good employees create a better environment for customers, and with many family members working together, a family feel permeates the store. In addition to the Robichaux’s, many employees are also friends or family members of each other.

“At one store, we have a manager whose two daughters work there also,” John Henry said. “We hear that people want to work here because we’re so hands on. Not every convenience store can do that. I manage one store, but go to all the stores to meet new employees. I like to show our employees that we care and take pride in our work. It helps them care too.”

Success with Southern Cooking

Blake’s Deli was started by McDonald in the mid-1980s, and you can still find him cooking its food each day. In the Deep South where it’s all about the food, you have to have a great menu if you’re going to compete.

Bubbie’s son, Nick Robichaux, general manager of both Blake’s Delis, drove the evolution of the food program. “We’ve changed so much in the last ten years,” he said. Previously, the store didn’t have much variety and everything was tailored to grab and go options.

But after he attended his first food and fuel expo in Biloxi, Mississippi, Nick added the store’s first food gamechanger—a bigger hot box.

“We loaded it with red beans, white beans, jambalaya, fish and chicken tenders, expanding the grab and go section,” he said. “We offered a lot [of options], so we focused on streamlining our menu. We cut out fried liver, gizzards and onion rings. We couldn’t keep up everything with the labor force,” Nick recalled.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Breakfast is busy in these industrial areas and is a popular meal for the store.

“We start at 4 am. Our number one sellers are the breakfast wraps and breakfast burritos, which we’ve been making for about two years. It’s so easy to eat in the car on the way to work,” said Nick. “There’s one ingredient that makes them really good—but I can’t give away the secret.”

In the hotbox, customers have a choice of grits, eggs, sausage, smoked Cajun sausage, bacon, toast or a biscuit.

“We have a lot of regulars at both locations, but also see a lot of new faces,” said Nick. “Our customers are people going to and from work, and a lot of people work in the [nearby] plants.”

Plate Lunches and Po’boys

Blake’s became well known for its po’boys—a sandwich on French cut bread, loaded with mayo, pickle, tomato and a choice of protein, often including ham, roast beef or fried seafood.

And in a town where seafood is king, the overstuffed shrimp po’boy is Blake’s most popular menu item. “Mr. Blake started that in the 80s. It’s almost a pound of shrimp. It’s popular year-round,” Nick said.

The roast beef po’boys are also a hit, and Blake’s makes its own roast beef each day, shredding it by hand and also using it to make homemade gravy. The deli outsources the bread baking, but it’s baked fresh each morning, said Nick, noting that “bread is the most important ingredient in a po’boy.”

In this part of the world, customers also love Blake’s plate lunches, which Nick said saw a huge bump in popularity because of its to-go nature during Covid.

“We always did them, but not to the magnitude we do now. Customers found out we had good, home cooking,” he said. “Seafood Friday is our most popular day, and the special is shrimp stew, served over rice with potato salad, sweet peas and fried fish. We also do a seafood stuffed potato, shrimp fettuccine and a shrimp and sausage jambalaya.”

Restroom Renovation

If you’re in the c-store business, then you know how important and essential clean restrooms are to customers. Cleanliness is the first priority, but an upscale restroom can be surprisingly otherworldly for customers. And Blake’s visitors are sure to be surprised by the level of design detail at the deli’s Thibodeaux location.

Right after Hurricane Ida hit the area hard in 2021, Blake’s renovated its bathroom with decorative tile, using ceramics to cover the walls all the way up to and on the ceiling.

“It’s much easier to keep up with the maintenance,” explained Nick. “Customers from time to time express how much they appreciate the attention we give to the restrooms. We check them twice every hour, all day. I learned that from NACS.”

Navigating Hiring Challenges

Blake’s is going through staffing challenges like most other c-stores, said Nick.

“I don’t think there’s a secret to fixing it,” he said, “but we are in there working with our people. We don’t just throw them in and say ‘run the store.’”

It all comes back to the family-oriented nature of the company, which Nick said is one of its keys to success.

“I have [employees] who have been with me longer than I’ve been with the company. We are with the staff more than we’re with our own families. Showing them how to be a member of our team is part of the training process.”

Al Hebert

Al Hebert

Al Hebert is the Gas Station Gourmet, showcasing America’s hidden culinary treasures. Find him at

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