All of the stores offer grab-and-go sandwiches and three also have delis that offer the made-to-order (MTO) option. Some locations also offer the option of toasting sandwiches.
“People really like that,” Patel said.
More than one-third of respondents surveyed for the “C-Store Keynote Report” published in July 2016 by Datassential research firm said that having their sandwich made fresh by store staff was likely to motivate them to purchase. Around one-third said that having the ability to customize their sandwiches was a major motivator.
“Our students like to be able to customize their sandwiches, so in the stores that offer it, made-to-order is most popular,” Patel said. “But not everyone has time to go through the process. That’s why grab-and-go sandwiches that are made in our commissary also sell very well.”
Just like a widening margin in the convenience channel, breakfast is a particularly productive traffic driver for prepackaged sandwiches on Iowa State’s campus. The c-stores offer a heat-and-serve sandwich that they display in warmers for quick pick-up.
The Datassential report found that 64% of the consumers surveyed wanted to see breakfast sandwiches at c-stores, up 16% from 2012. The University of Iowa has had its breakfast sandwich offering for several years and has seen it perform successfully since its introduction.
Recently, one of the MTO locations, Hawthorn Market & Café, scrapped its Subway build-your-own model and substituted it with one that’s closer to Panera Bread, where customers order specialty sandwiches from a set menu.
“The sandwiches are still built to order from fresh ingredients, but we’re trying to increase our speed of service,” Patel noted.
Customers have been slow to embrace the changed model.
“We need to take a look at the Hawthorn store’s deli for the fall to see how we can make this new model more popular,” she said.
Many times, all the customers want is a good quality sandwich at a good price and, for them, a basic wedge meat and cheese sandwich made fresh in the commissary is exactly what they want.
“Not everyone wants cutting edge ingredients and fancy toppings on their sandwiches,” Patel explained.
The biggest motivator for customers to choose a sandwich is that it is made on high quality bread, the Datassential report showed. Survey participants also said that a “made-on” date (named by about one-third of respondents) is more persuasive than a “sell-by” date (named by one-quarter of respondents) on their sandwiches.
But for those on the Iowa State campus who do want something different, the commissary provides a number of prepackaged specialty sandwiches.
Among the most popular are a Turkey Roasted Tomato Sandwich with lettuce spring mix on 12-grain bread, Smoked Turkey with Cranberry Mayonnaise made with caramelized onions and lettuce spring mix on nine-grain bread, and a Muffaletta Sandwich with olive salad, hard salami, smoked turkey breast, provolone cheese and ham on a telera roll.