Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Advice: Starting A Sandwich Shop


Qwerty
 Share

Recommended Posts

I love quality breads, meats and cheeses alot too, but also think that any place that you can get a great cup of soup and order a good salad and get quality greens that are as clean and fresh as if you prepared it for yourself would put you head and shoulders above most. I find it surprising how difficult it can be to find that. It is critical, I think. to be able to depend on a steady supply of fresh greens and a staff that you can count on to never send out a romain rib that is too thick or brown ended, no matter what, is part of it.

HC

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A lot of good posts to build on but I'd make a few suggestions of my own.

1. VALUE! If you offer 110% of what you are charging then you've achieved value. Quality is important but the reason people go to Subway is the fact that

they blow away other fast food at the same price. Whether it's fine dining or a shack your customers have to feel that the money is well spent.

2. Employees. One of the other forum members mentioned restaurant experience. If you don't have any then get some fast. If you do have experience I would hire for character and then train the skills. If you, as the owner, know what you are doing then you need to be able to teach those hands on skills to your workers. Hire good people who may or may not have the prerequisite skills rather than pay top dollar for help that may be fast but is a headache. Your customers will thank you if have a friendly staff that really cares. Quality people care.

3. Bank/CPA/Accounting. Numbers don't lie. Don't loose your home or ruin you life over a business. If it isn't working then jump off and think of what to do next. Also, if your second best seller is something you hate then swallow you're pride and keep selling it. Your dream is a restaurant not a perfect world where everyone likes the same foods as you.

4 Food. Fresh is always better. Nuff said.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From working in the food industry for several years, I'm sad to see how often marketing matters more than the quality of the product.

The 'vibe' your customers get when they come to get your sandwich may affect them more than whether or not you use single-breast turkey and artisan pickles... unless the artisan pickles are part of what they're coming to get.

I think marketing always matters more.

If he's from a 10K town in Texas how much marketing can there be?!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really think you should reconsider making your own breads, well, having an on-site baker make them. This has several advantages:

*You can make signature rolls or loaves that make your sandwiches unique in appearance.

*Baking bread smells wonderful and will get people into your shop.

*You can make more if needed.

* You won't be at the mercy of the supplier's hours or days off.

*You can make custom flavors.

*You will control quality/freshness.

*You can turn leftovers or mistakes into croutons or bread crumbs to use in other dishes or to sell packaged.

I attended some classes with Ciril Hitz, and he did the entire class with $9,000 worth of equipment including: 2 deck ovens, one convection oven, spiral mixer, sheeter, tables, and a proof box. So the equipment isn't a huge investment -it' a matter of whether it's worth having an extra employee or two on the payroll vs paying for pre-made bread delivered daily.

Also, the atmosphere and marketing are critical. I have seen places go under that served good, real food at fast food prices, but were located in working-class districts where the locals viewed the places as 'too yuppie' and wouldn't eat there. You've got to find a marketing campaign that your target audience identifies with and desires.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From working in the food industry for several years, I'm sad to see how often marketing matters more than the quality of the product.

The 'vibe' your customers get when they come to get your sandwich may affect them more than whether or not you use single-breast turkey and artisan pickles... unless the artisan pickles are part of what they're coming to get.

I think marketing always matters more.

If he's from a 10K town in Texas how much marketing can there be?!

Not only was healthy tourist trade mentioned, competition was too.

C'mon, if nobody knows the place is there it doesn't matter about quality.

You're not in retail are you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From working in the food industry for several years, I'm sad to see how often marketing matters more than the quality of the product.

The 'vibe' your customers get when they come to get your sandwich may affect them more than whether or not you use single-breast turkey and artisan pickles... unless the artisan pickles are part of what they're coming to get.

I think marketing always matters more.

If he's from a 10K town in Texas how much marketing can there be?!

Not only was healthy tourist trade mentioned, competition was too.

C'mon, if nobody knows the place is there it doesn't matter about quality.

You're not in retail are you.

Nope I'm not in retail. Completely different animal from what little I know. I admire retailers during the holidays. Unbelievable patience with the unwashed hoards.

I worked in a small town that had a big seasonal tourist business and we found word of mouth was king in a town of 7K to 11K. The tourists aren't going to have a lot of Fodor's info on a tiny but seasonally busy destination. If the locals love it they will tell everyone who stops by.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nope I'm not in retail.  Completely different animal from what little I know.  I admire retailers during the holidays.  Unbelievable patience with the unwashed hoards.

I worked in a small town that had a big seasonal tourist business and we found word of mouth was king in a town of 7K to 11K.  The tourists aren't going to have a lot of Fodor's info on a tiny but seasonally busy destination.  If the locals love it they will tell everyone who stops by.

Word of mouth is marketing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If he's from a 10K town in Texas how much marketing can there be?!

You'd be surprised. It doesn't matter how much advertising I've done, nor how many marketing strategies I've used, not a week has gone by without someone "discovering" my place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nope I'm not in retail.  Completely different animal from what little I know.  I admire retailers during the holidays.  Unbelievable patience with the unwashed hoards.

I worked in a small town that had a big seasonal tourist business and we found word of mouth was king in a town of 7K to 11K.  The tourists aren't going to have a lot of Fodor's info on a tiny but seasonally busy destination.  If the locals love it they will tell everyone who stops by.

Word of mouth is marketing.

I agree.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really think you should reconsider making your own breads, well, having an on-site baker make them.  .... 

If you don't make your own breads, do you have two possible bakery suppliers so you aren't hostage to just one - who then might go out of business? Bakeries around here haven't fared very well. Hopefully your part of the world is kinder to bakers.

C

Link to comment
Share on other sites

....What is important to you guys when you go get a sandwich?

I can only respond to this part of your question.

Taste and usually choice of sandwiches I can't easily make at home. I had half of a Subway once and will never choose to have one again. My most favorite sandwich in the world is Pan Bagnat. I've never had a good one in US, with the exception of the ones I made at home, of course. :rolleyes: I am surprised they are not popular in US because all of my friends get hooked once they taste one.

My other favorite sandwiches, order based on driving distance from my house:

1. Bahn mi. I live near a Vietnamese shopping center that has a number of Vietnamese restaurants and sandwich places. Over the years I've eaten Bahn mi in all of them at least once. When I have a craving for Bahn mi I choose to drive a few miles further to my favorite Vietnamese sandwich shop because they bake their own bread and make themselves everything they put into their Bahn mi: pickled vegetables, pates and other meats. You can taste the freshness of their ingredients with every bite.

2. On those infrequent occasions when I drive to Washington DC I make a point of stopping at A. Litteri. Great food imported from Italy at decent price and incredible sandwiches, that I can't make at home. (If you choose "Platters and other ..." and scroll down, you will see their sandwich menu and prices.)

http://www.litteris.com/

3. Cheese shop in Williamsburg, Va.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-cheese-shop-me...re-williamsburg

I love their sandwiches, the way they serve them in odd looking metal baskets, availability of beer and wine by the bottle and their shop. They have top notch merchandise in their gourmet section. If they have a certain jam or vinegar or oil, you can be sure it is the best there is. To be honest, I don't often buy the stuff from them because I can get it for half their price in my local Asian, German, Italian shops in Northern Va, but a lot of tourists who live in ethnically less diverse areas stock up.

Their specialty is their secret "house dressing" used in sandwiches, also popular are bags of humongous looking baguette ends. We go to Williamsburg once or twice a month usually timing our trips so we can have soup and sandwich at the Cheese shop when we arrive. We frequently buy sandwiches to take home before we leave. The lines may be long at times, but they move very fast.

Finally, in case you have not heard of Margoux Sky, who reportedly and allegedly makes "The best sandwiches in America," you may want to check her out. According to the story she ran a sandwich shop for two-and-a-half years. She did everything herself: bake the bread, make sandwiches and all sauces & dressings, cook the soup, and sweep the floor. She was burned out and was ready to sell her business. The night before she signed the papers she filled the last carry out order at the request of her sister. According to the story the sandwiches were for Oprah. Oprah took one bite of her sandwich, found out about Sky's predicament and wrote her a check. Her sandwich was featured in O, and the rest is history.

Good luck to you with your project.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm way too lazy to bring my own lunch to work most of the time, and as I work freelance I'm finding myself in different parts of the city and am always on the lookout for a good lunch shop.

I've gone to some really higher end coffee shops expecting to be completely wowed by their $10 shrimp & salmon sandwich... and instead could barely choke it down because really, that' all it was – good shrimp and salmon, but nothing else really – honestly it kinda tasted like what I imagine cat food on toast would be like...

And then I've gone to a little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in the middle of nowhere and had the BEST tuna salad sandwich ever, because they use amazing fresh bread (brought in daily from a nearby bakery), and while the tuna is nothing spectacular (just canned tuna with salt, pepper and jarred mayo), they also layer on tons of fresh lettuce and tomatoes and sliced pickles and whatever else I may want. Never mind that I only paid $5 for it – I would have gladly paid much more.

This same little coffee shop also brings in fresh soups daily (made locally, but not in the coffee shop). They have different soup every day, so I feel like I'm getting a variety. And this may not be important to most people, but as a vegetarian I really appreciate that all of their soups are always made with vegetable stock, never chicken. So many times I've gone into a place hoping to enjoy a nice vegeetable soup, and unable to get it because of the chicken stock (*sigh*). You could have a great following of vegetarian customers if you offer at least ONE guaranteed vegetarian soup per day. I doubt most meat-eaters would even notice the difference in a soup.

Actually, this little coffee shop being nearby is one of the reasons that particular office is one of my favourite places to work.

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tri2Cook,

My example about snowmobilers, skiers, holiday crowds etc. perhaps was too abbreviated. I am speaking from real life, say at Old Forge, a small resort in upstate NY. These are just 3 of the varied demographics a reaturant owner needs to cater to, each with its own set of food and taste preferences, AND PRICE POINTS. Real life restaurant management is a bear.

I hear people speak of baking one's "own" bread. Do they even begin to understand the equipment necessary, the storage space for flour, the SPECIALIZED baking ovens for the number of rolls etc. we are speaking of for BREAK EVEN POINTS? DO they understand the time constraints, and a typical restaurant schedule? How many cooks will this restaurant have? This sort of talk makes me want to cry. I have lived in a family of professional bread makers and chefs, who DAILY made over 3000 bagels, plus artisanal sourdough, ciabatta, hero rolls etc. shaping loaves by hand and by machine.

I KNOW what punishment it involves, the WHOLE NIGHT WORK for quality bread, the crew, the PROOFING ROOMS, the ovens, the whole ensemble. Every single detail, from personnel, management, inventory, to execution has been dunned into my very marrow. Ask me whatever question you need about costing, equipment, SPACE, types of breads, and soon you will come up with pretty grim answers. A restaurant is a business, not a field of dreams.

It simply is the the most shocking thing I have heard, suggested by those with neither any experience in professional bread making nor in the exigencies of running a foodservice business in the USA. Where are the US citizens who are going to do the job, and what salaries are you going to pay them? As someone suggested, please get some hands-on expertise at running your own restaurant by working all the managerial and technical positions in a shop similar to the one you envisage. I humbly apologize for the hectoring tone, but I have experienced so much personal tragedy on account of this very restaurant life and unripe decisions that I cannot keep silent.

We are your friends and wish you nothing but the best. We do not want to discourage dreams. When the basics are soundly established, then we can always pool our heads together to offer constructive suggestions. In the same vein, many here already have gone through the learning curve, made all the mistakes. Why do you need to repeat them and not take advantage of the collective goodwill? We are not trying to show off or trying to score points off one another when we speak of the details of professional breadmaking or FOH issues. We wish you the greatest success.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What makes a great sandwich: bread, sauce, meat, cheese, veggies... Each of these should be good. For bread, you'll need a plain white bread for certain consumers, a healthy version for others and a few others to fit your various toppings. Gooey cheese always sell. Artisan deli meat is all the rage now and might still be in 2-3 years. Great veggies are also important, you could have roasted veggies, various greens and a few spreads on offer (don't forget to have vegetarian options at all time).

What goes well with a great sandwiches: soups, salads, fries, pickles,... Good homemade soups and pickles would win me over immediately, great sides like salads and fries would win many of my friends (because of the smell and obvious competition, I would avoid fries).

What makes a great sandwich place: location and visibility (especially in a tourist town), great products, fast service but relaxed ambiance, take out possibilities (e.g. muffin and cafes), great smell (e.g. bread baking in the oven), nice view, comfortable tables, a black board with daily specials and seasonal offerings,... I think should always keep in mind that people generally chose a restaurant with their eyes, not with their taste-buds... especially when visiting new places. One thing however, I am always wary of place that seems to mix genres (e.g. thai wraps with gazpacho anyone?). Depending on the nature of tourism in your town, you might want to get something that would be considered a local delicacy.

Good luck

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hear people speak of baking one's "own" bread. Do they even begin to understand the equipment necessary, the storage space for flour, the SPECIALIZED baking ovens for the number of rolls etc. we are speaking of for BREAK EVEN POINTS?  DO they understand the time constraints, and a typical restaurant schedule? How many cooks will this restaurant have? This sort of talk makes me want to cry.

Me too -- and having discussed this with someone on the bread faculty at Johnson & Wales today, I think that our sorrow is shared by others. We know of at least two high-end bakeries -- award-winning shops -- that scratch by each year and probably don't clear a profit. Taking that on as well as a new sandwich shop sounds foolhardy.

Once you've done ten years at the shop and have a nice nest egg, you can crack it into the "making one's own bread" frying pan and see what happens.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me, the only way to be able to justify baking your own bread is to sell another line of goods because I whole heartedly agree that regular bakeries and especially bread bakeries can't hardly make it and most often don't make it. Tossing some protein on there with some lettuce et al is the way to go.

Then folks are coming for a meal, not just some carbs.

The marketing aspect is huge huger and hugest like I said upthread.

Especially since 9/11 shoppers in general have narowed thier field of vision and are pin point shoppers. We get on the internet, we check the bells and whistles on the product we want and we shop for price and we don't buy if we don't find exactly what we're looking for.

So there's more people looking to get lunch than to get a specific loaf of bread. Simple as that.

Stand alone bakeries are dinosaurs.

Plus then there's the merchandising. :rolleyes:

I mean as if marketing isn't bad enough--

Someone upthread said that they really dug the odd little metal buckets that the store arranged their product in. Yeah. It's all a ton of psychology.

I mean you gotta tell 'em why they need that damn loaf of bread and make it look irresistable.

It's crazy.

I work in a church bookstore. I've had this amazing nativity scene in a blazing dispay in the window for weeks, it's 360 exposure right by the register so it gets traffic that way too. Not a nibble. I move it just inside the doorway and it sold in two hours.

I have jewelry that's been in stock for a year. I put it on a different display, "Oh you've got something new!" they oooh & awe.

It's equally fascinating and maddening.

But back to bread--I have a different take on it--it's just not that hard to do at least some of it yourself.

But almost impossible to make a living at bread baking alone.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's a place just about a mile from my house that bakes a variety of baked goods (mostly breads) and sells sandwiches, salads and soups as well as selling the bread and pastry like a traditional shop. It's near an office complex and a mall and has been going strong since 1979. They operate in about 600sq feet, with a small indoor counter with seating, outdoor seating and sandwich delivery service. (I live in Phoenix, you can dine outside comfortably most of the year.) So, IMO, you don't need room after room to handle a bread setup.

In a town of 10,000, even with tourists, you won't need to bake hundreds of loaves. If you sell 300 sandwiches a day and can get a decent ten slices out of a loaf of bread, you only need to bake 30 loaves. And, if you offer a couple types of bread, you are talking batches of 8 loaves at a time, which a small proof box, spiral mixer and one deck oven (and deck ovens can be used to cook a variety of items including roasts) can easily handle.

The place near my house stocks an additional 6 loaves of each type of bread each day for people wanting to buy whole loaves, so, you might be making a total 15 loaves per day of 4 types of bread. I don't think that is all that intimidating.

Even a supermarket bakery doesn't take up room after room of space, and they probably sell ten times as much bread as you will go through each day.

If you get a chance, you might want to travel to other towns and talk to people running businesses like the one you wish to open and just look at their setups and see if they will answer some questions for you. When I was in pastry school, we got sent to interview business owners for papers we had to write and I was amazed at how much people were willing to talk about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you sell 300 sandwiches a day and can get a decent ten slices out of a loaf of bread, you only need to bake 30 loaves.

With two slices of bread per sandwich, and 10 slices from each loaf, 300 sandwiches is 60 loaves.

With 30 loaves, he'd be selling only 150 sandwiches.

I think we all agree excellent bread is a key component to a good sandwich - one that people will go out of their way for (and make the choice to go there and not to a competitor).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Walking to work this morning I had an epiphany (it was to me, probably not to most of you). Again, I am in a very similar situation as the OP so I think this is relevant to offer for feedback here.

I tend to advertise and market what is important to me in my business. Those are the things that I value and I believe what sets me apart. I have pushed three ideas: Quality fresh ingredients; Community support/charitable giving; and Environmental impact (using compostable containers, strong energy consumption policies, etc). These have been found in all of my ads from day one. In the good ol' days (say a few months ago), these stood on their own. But we're in a new economy right now - it may be changed in a few months or a few years, but right now times are tight.

So the epipheny was that I should be marketing what is important to the customer...today. My ideals aren't gone, nor does it change how I run my business, but right now most of my customers (especially ones that I want to bring in for the first time versus my regulars) seem to care about just one thing - value. And much of that "perceived value" stuff goes out the window - they want real value. They want to know that they can get good food, in good quantity at a good price. My belief is that they are turning a blind eye to environment, charity and possibly even freshness to some degree.

I'm curious to know what you all think about this. Remember that eG-land is skewed toward quality. There are only so many "foodies" in a town of 10,000 and so in times like this I/we can't rely on foodies keeping us going. The OP question is what are people looking for in a sandwich shop. And I'm asking, what should I be marketing to people about a sandwich shop...two different questions perhaps getting to the same place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm curious to know what you all think about this.  Remember that eG-land is skewed toward quality.  There are only so many "foodies" in a town of 10,000 and so in times like this I/we can't rely on foodies keeping us going. 

I think that's exactly right -- and it's the reason that listing our preferences for favorite sandwiches or good bread isn't ultimately going to be helpful to the OP's shop.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somebody needs a happy pill.

:raz:

Clearly it is harder than most difficult to get a shop open and keep it open for sure. I am evidence of that.

I stayed open under two months in my most recent venture that still smarts like hell.

Although I have had a successful cake speakeasy for 30+ years.

But I'm fixing to open again legally. :rolleyes: (Talk about addictions)

It is really hard and gut wrenching and no amount of negative advice is without sound reasoning. But still.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm curious to know what you all think about this.  Remember that eG-land is skewed toward quality.  There are only so many "foodies" in a town of 10,000 and so in times like this I/we can't rely on foodies keeping us going.  The OP question is what are people looking for in a sandwich shop.  And I'm asking, what should I be marketing to people about a sandwich shop...two different questions perhaps getting to the same place.

That really cuts to the heart of the matter. I think that one really has to add value (without substantially increasing prices). Like it or not sandwich shops have become highly commoditized and competing with Subway, Quizmos etc. is tough.

Even if their sandwiches are crap the average consumer has been brainwashed to believe that those places are both fresh and in subway's case "healthy".

I'm also seeing more and more folks bringing their own lunches into the office rather than running out for lunch. I eat lunch out once or twice a week and generally gravitate towards a nearby pho place where $5 gets me an enormous satisfying bowl of soup.

It is funny - the psychological impact of this recession looms large even for people fortunate enough to have jobs and little to no consumer debt. I'm not one iota worse off than I was 12 months ago but still am far more reluctant to spend money on non-essentials than I was.

Things that would draw me into a local sandwich shop:

1. The fact that it is locally owned.

2. Good (not necessarily spectacular) quality ingredients

3. Price- I live in Metro L.A. so to my way of thinking no more than $7.50/sandwich

4. Meats, cheeses even veg should Ideally be freshly sliced to order

5. A nice soup or two preferably made in house is always a good idea, so many places just serve nasty glop that went straight from freezer/can into microwave.

6. Baking one's own bread is a huge plus

There is a horde of Banh Mi shops nearby where prices range from $1.25 to $2.70ish per sandwich. Those are great and everyone seems to have a favorite shop with endless discussion about who has better baguettes, nicer toppings etc. Interestingly the one banh mi chain (Lee's) seems to have less of a following than the mom & pop operations. Some shops bake their own bread, some don't.

The mind boggles at how many sandwiches one would have to sell at that price just to break even.

Edited by 6ppc (log)

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm curious to know what you all think about this.  Remember that eG-land is skewed toward quality.  There are only so many "foodies" in a town of 10,000 and so in times like this I/we can't rely on foodies keeping us going. 

I think that's exactly right -- and it's the reason that listing our preferences for favorite sandwiches or good bread isn't ultimately going to be helpful to the OP's shop.

I agree as well... but the OP said that's what he wanted from this thread.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm curious to know what you all think about this.  Remember that eG-land is skewed toward quality.  There are only so many "foodies" in a town of 10,000 and so in times like this I/we can't rely on foodies keeping us going. 

I think that's exactly right -- and it's the reason that listing our preferences for favorite sandwiches or good bread isn't ultimately going to be helpful to the OP's shop.

But that's why you do 80/20. 80% the familiar and 20% new.

Fresh bread and scratch mayos and dressings make a great sandwich even better. Plus they said they were doing their own meats too.

There's a lot to be said for doing something simple really really really well.

A real simple menu that is killer. They will come.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hear people speak of baking one's "own" bread. Do they even begin to understand the equipment necessary, the storage space for flour, the SPECIALIZED baking ovens for the number of rolls etc. we are speaking of for BREAK EVEN POINTS?  DO they understand the time constraints, and a typical restaurant schedule? How many cooks will this restaurant have? This sort of talk makes me want to cry.

I agree competely. I make our burger buns and our pizza doughs at work and just keeping up with that in addition to everything else can be a handful. I've seriously considered contracting the buns from the local grocery's in-store bakery. It's a small place (only 24 seats in the winter, more in the summer when we can open the deck) so it's just me in the kitchen and a server in the front with a part-timer as an extra kitchen hand on the busy nights. My prep time is already pretty extensive (and that's not including inventory, ordering, opening, closing and actual cooking time... and I don't even own the place). I can't imagine trying to keep up with the demand of doing several artisan breads in-house. And that doesn't even take into account the expense/equipment/space issues.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...