We like to eat here at Rapid Formations a lot! Food is by far the most popular topic of conversation in our offices, and never more so than when lunchtime is approaching. And like any office workers, we like our midday gastronomical options to be not only tasty, but quick, convenient and an all-round pleasant purchasing experience, setting us up for the rest of a day to help you form your businesses. Happy tummies mean happy workers. And the local sandwich shop is often our go-to place.
While our high streets are crammed with big chain food outlets, the small independent sandwich shop still seems able to buck the trend and compete with the big boys. So it’s no surprise more and more people are looking at how they can move into this £7.2bn industry.
And if you’re one of them, then Rapid Formations is here to take you through all the essentials you’ll need to think about to get your sandwich shop up and running.
This is one of the first things you’ll need to consider, and it’s also the most important decision you will make. As mentioned above, the office worker is the principal target for sandwich shops, and the big office block is the wholegrain…sorry…holy grail.
Of course, not everyone is going to be able to find a vacant and affordable location next to a 30-storey, 1000-workforce-strong international banking HQ; however, if there are few or no offices and workplaces nearby at all, you’re going to struggle to garner sufficient numbers of clientele to make your business viable.
Spend time researching different locations, and if possible, once you’ve spotted somewhere you like, try to spend a couple of mornings and afternoons monitoring the footfall passing by, as this will give you a good initial idea of your potential customer base.
As well as offices, locations near secondary schools and other educational institutions can also be prime sandwich shop spots, as you will be able to exploit the lunch time rush by local students. Just be sure to check out the competition as well as the potential clientele to make sure there’s a realistic chance of you taking a decent slice of the pie.
Setting Up Shop
When kitting out your sandwich shop, your needs will be dependent on exactly what you plan to sell. A sandwich shop isn’t just about two pieces of bread with some ham and cheese stuffed in-between.
Your customers will expect a wide and varied selection of hot and cold foods and drinks, including rolls, baguettes, toasties and wraps, along with soups, salad, juices and tea and coffee. Confectionary and home baking are also very popular and if you want to stand out from the local competition you may want to consider whether there is anything a little less common and more niche you can offer that your competitors don’t.
All of this impacts on the furnishings and equipment you will need to buy and install. The absolute basics in your kitchen will be your fridge and workspaces for preparing food, and separate sinks for washing food and utensils. If you are providing hot food such as bacon rolls, you will also need a fryer and/or grill, and other items such as toasting machines for hot wraps and toasties.
Out front, you will likely want a large glass counter in order to be able to showcase both your pre-prepared produce and fresh ingredients. A glass-fronted drinks fridge is also a must. You’ll also need a secure-fronted service area where your till will be.
Rules and Regulations
First and foremost, you’ll need to make sure you are a fully registered business. You can’t just rent a shop and start selling sandwiches without properly registering for tax purposes. That’s where we at Rapid Formations come in. We can have your business registered and ready to trade in a matter of hours. Just pick a name, choose your package and leave the rest to us. Check out our home page to find out if your preferred company name is still available.
Once you are fully incorporated, you will also need to notify your local authority’s Environmental Health Service at least 28 days before you plan to open. You can type in your postcode to find your local authority’s website here. Your local authority will also be able to advise on what Business Rates you will be liable to pay.
You will also need to ensure that your premises meet the necessary standards to allow you to follow good food hygiene practices. This will include things like maintaining a good standard of food preparation areas, staff changing and toilet facilities and the general condition of the building, fittings and fixtures.
Finally, you must also ensure that both you and your staff have a good understanding of recommended food hygiene practices and that you have clear cleaning and personal hygiene procedures in place. You are highly likely to be inspected at some point by a food safety officer who will inspect not only the condition of the premises but the practices you follow. Failure to follow good hygiene practices could result in you being closed down, as well as being generally bad press for your business.
For more information on the rules and regulations you’ll need to follow, check out this handy Government guide.
What to Expect
Running a sandwich shop is pretty tough work, and more so than you may imagine at first. It’s not a simple case of opening at 8am, serving some sandwiches and closing at 2.30pm. In order to make your business as profitable as possible, you may find yourself having to open as early as 6am in order to catch the not insignificant breakfast rush for those starting work early in the morning. And whatever time you open, you’ll need to be in well beforehand for cleaning and food preparation, and the same again after close of play so the hours can turn out to be very long.
Furthermore, you will be on your feet all day, which can be very physically demaning. You’ll need to have a reasonable level of fitness and expect to be exhausted for at least the first few months until your body gets used to the intensity of your daily routine.
Finally, it goes without saying that as you will be dealing with members of the public, you really do need to be a good people person. You will want to develop a loyal group of regular customers to keep your business going, and many people will return to a particular sandwich shop because they like the people working there and feel they have a good rapport with the staff. So the ability to keep smiling, laughing and joking even during the busiest of times is also a very good attribute to have.
The best tips about how to be successful at pretty much anything usually come from those who have already done it themselves. The following are some miscellaneous pieces of advice we’ve pulled together from those who been there, done that and bought the baguette!
Chance Your Arm with Rent
Depending on your location and how much demand there is for renting properties in your area, your landlord may be willing to allow you a couple of months rent free while you get the premises fitted out and ready to open. This would obviously help reduce your set up costs substantially as you won’t be bringing any money in during your set-up period. There’s no guarantees your landlord will agree to this, of course, but it’s worth chancing your arm.
Sell Cheap Coffee
Tea and coffee are highly profitable commodities in themselves. They’re very cheap to buy in bulk, and sell at a very high mark up. The industry standard dose for coffee is about 7 grams per serving. That means you can get up to 140 cups out of 1kg. You could sell your coffee at £1 a cup and make a very tidy profit indeed. But it may be more profitable in the long term to think about selling it cheaper. Many people will go to a shop with the intention of only buying a coffee but then spot those lovely sandwiches or home baking and end up having a bite to eat as well. If you can entice these people to your shop by selling the best value (i.e. cheapest) coffee in the area, then not only will you increase your coffee sales, but you’ll also be the one who benefits from those spontaneous additional purchases which could end up generating much greater profits than higher-priced coffee alone.
If you intend to run your sandwich shop as more of a sit-in café, then naturally comfortable seating is something you will need to spend a lot of time thinking about. However, even if you only plan to function as a takeaway, having a couple of chairs or a sofa for people to sit on while waiting can greatly improve the customer experience. This will be dependent on the amount of space you have, but is definitely worth considering.
Vary Your Menu
Many of your regulars will buy the same thing every time they visit and that’s fine; however, other people like to shop about and try different things. If you are always offering the same options, some of your more adventurous regulars may decide to see what’s on offer elsewhere. So make sure you mix things up a bit every couple of months or so to keep your customers’ curiosity satisfied.
We’ve given you the essential information you’ll need if you decide that opening your own sandwich shop is the way to go, but we know you’re bound to have more questions and we want to help as much as we can. You can get in touch with your queries by tweeting us at our Twitter handle @RapidUKOfficial and via our Facebook Page.