Convenience store operators who are weighing the possibility of adding a sandwich program may be biting off more than they can chew — which is saying a mouthful.
Foodservice is not the same as retailing, so those c-store retailers who are undertaking a sandwich program will need to deal with a flurry of issues, perhaps for the first time. Here are some of the things to consider before arriving at any final decision:
- What kinds of sandwiches will you offer? Pre-packaged or made fresh on premise? If pre-packaged, you will need to find a dependable supplier who can match your price points.
- What types of sandwiches? American consumers insist on variety more than ever before. Meat? Cheese? Fish? Standard ham and Swiss? Grilled? Don’t forget to leave space on the menu for limited-time offerings to drive ongoing excitement for the program.
- What varieties of bread and/or rolls will you offer, keeping in mind that each comes with a different cost. Pita? Panini? Laffa? Rye? Bagels? Artisan breads? White bread? Buns? Something else? All of the above?
- Toppings like tomato and lettuce are another expense requiring frequent deliveries and with a short shelf life.
- Equipment must be purchased, fitted into the available space, used properly and cleaned/sanitized after being used. Depending on the scope of the sandwich program, that might mean adding anything from walk-in/reach-in refrigeration to a prep table and sink, meat/cheese slicer, food processor/vegetable cutter, tomato slicer, bread and bagel slicer, scale, refrigerated sandwich prep table, reach-in cooler, oven, grills and ranges, ventilation, microwave oven, toaster, food prep surfaces, cutting boards, knives and more.
- Employees will require training in food safety best practices and in how to prepare the menu items, among other key elements of the program. Such training entails both cost and time — even more important factors today given the high rate of turnover.
- Storage becomes more of an issue unless the sandwiches are being delivered to the store daily.
- Packaging may need to be purchased and stored, and there are a wide variety of types.
- Waste must be factored in. How long can you hold a sandwich before the quality begins to suffer? What happens to the sandwiches that don’t sell?
- Food safety and sanitation become heightened concerns, which rise exponentially whenever storing, preparing, holding and selling fresh food. Expect to spend more time with the local health department inspector and face potential fines if the long lists of requirements are not followed.
- Local competition must be assessed, with fast- and fast-casual chains, independent sandwich shops, delis, supermarkets, trucks, big-box retailers and other convenience store operators all offering sandwiches.
- How will you market your sandwich program, and how much are you willing to spend? What kinds of promotions will you offer? Should it tie into your beverage program?
- Pest control may become more of an issue with fresh food being handled on-site.
This is only a partial list, but it quickly becomes clear that for a convenience store, introducing a sandwich program might just prove hard to swallow and digest.