Finding a healthy meal that tastes good on the go can be a challenge, especially in areas that are filled with fast food venues. Sandwich shops fulfill this need, allowing families, busy working professionals, and people out running errands to access quality, convenient food. If you’ve spotted an area that would benefit from a sandwich shop, you might consider opening that shop yourself. While many franchise opportunities exist in this space, opening your own shop will give you total control of the business model, its menu, and its marketing. If you come up with a unique concept and deliver quality food that’s in-demand, you might be looking at a highly profitable business venture.
Sandwich shops prepare custom sandwiches and subs as the customer waits. These made-to-order products offer convenience, and many stores offer a variety of complimentary products like beverages, chips, salads, desserts, and more. Sandwich shops customers a variety of choices of meats, toppings, and breads.
While many sandwich shops are franchises, there’s also plenty of opportunity for independently owned shops. Because these stores are convenient meal options, they’re usually located in high-traffic retail areas. Most products are made to be consumed immediately, and these stores see a surge in business around lunch and dinner hours.
According to IBIS World, the sandwich and sub store industry experienced 3.4% growth from 2014 through 2019. In 2015, the industry grew by 4.3%, and in 2017, the industry experienced a 6.0% growth. That growth was due to increased consumer confidence. Other factors driving the industry’s growth include the growing consumer awareness of health risks associated with high fat fast foods. Stores also released new menu items to support this interest and keep these new customers coming back.
As of 2019, the industry was valued at $25 billion. A total of 26,212 businesses employed 416,666 staff. Franchises including Subway, Jimmy John’s, Jersey Mike’s Subs, and Firehouse Subs held the largest shares of the market.
IBIS World predicts that the industry will continue to grow from 2019 to 2024. Factors like an improving economy and strong employment will allow consumers to spend money on dining out. The demand for healthy, convenient meals should also increase, creating a continued opportunity for sandwich shops.
The sandwich shop industry isn’t just affected by taste and ingredient trends, but also by foodservice trends, too. According to Forbes, third-party delivery services like DoorDash and GrubHub are more popular than ever. In fact, restaurant delivery sales increased by 52% from May 2018 through May 2019. This indicates the importance of sandwich shops embracing these services.
Shops and restaurants are also increasingly publicizing how they involve customers in testing out new ideas. At the Chobani Cafe in New York City, customers can test out brand-new products, and Coca-Cola’s Insider’s Club sends subscribers limited-edition drinks to test before the drinks are available for purchase. Publicizing these testing opportunities creates a unique appeal, allowing consumers to feel like part of an inside club while allowing the shop to market test new products.
Sandwich shops and restaurants are the source of tremendous food waste. In addition to this food waste, shops are under increased pressure to embrace eco-friendly measures and minimize packaging waste. Carefully choosing eco-friendly packaging can appeal to eco-conscious consumers. Creating a program to minimize food waste, like donating unused food to local nonprofits, can also gain a shop increased public support.
Most sandwich shops market to consumers who are looking for a fast, convenient, and healthier meal. These consumers may be employees out on their lunch break, parents picking up a meal for their family on their way home, and anyone enjoying a day out who needs a meal on the go. With increased healthier choices, some shops may market specifically to health-conscious consumers.
Skills, Experience, and Education
A sandwich shop owner doesn’t need a business degree to get started, but certain skills and experiences are valuable and helpful when running this type of business.
Food service experience. Previous experience in the food service industry is valuable and will give a business owner at least a base knowledge of food handling practices, inventory management, and food safety.
Customer service skills. A shop owner with strong customer service skills can encourage customer loyalty and teach employees best customer service practices.
Multitasking abilities. Mealtimes in sandwich shops can become incredibly busy. An owner with great multitasking talents can keep the shop running smoothly and efficiently.
Management experience. A business owner who has previously hired, trained, and managed staff will be well-equipped for the management requirements of a sandwich shop.
Costs to Start
A sandwich shop will require substantial startup costs. Renting a space that was previously used as a restaurant or fast food venue can help to minimize renovation costs, saving some money. Plan to spend $50,000 or more to get the shop up and running.
Common startup costs for a sandwich shop include:
- Equipment, including refrigerators and ovens
- Supplies like trays, containers, and utensils
- Inventory of foods and ingredients
- Tables and chairs
- Renovation costs
Steps to Starting a Sandwich shop
Step 1. Write your Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a business plan. Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Step 2. Form a Business Entity
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and LLC. Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs and administrative requirements.
Related: Comparison of Business Entities
Step 3. Select your Location
Rent costs will depend on a shop’s size, location, and available amenities. Finding a space that was previously used as a restaurant can help to minimize renovation expenses. Because sandwich shops offer convenience and speed, it’s important to find a shop in a retail location that’s easily accessible. This location will carry higher rental costs, but it can bring in walk-in traffic and can encourage customers to stop in while shopping or while on lunch breaks.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
A sandwich shop owner will need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located.
In addition to standard business permits, a shop owner will need to obtain a food service license. According to 2ndKitchen, this license can cost between $100 and $1,000, depending on factors like the state the shop is in, how many seats are within the shop, and how many employees are on staff. Application requirements can vary by state and by county, but almost every license will require that the shop pass regular health department inspections.
Step 5. Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a sandwich shop is another. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 6. Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Sandwich shops can use marketing in many different ways. Common marketing techniques include online advertising, social media marketing, print advertising, direct mail marketing, and more. Shops may establish loyalty programs to encourage returning customers, and sponsoring local events can also help to build local community awareness and support. Marketing costs will vary depending on the type and volume of each activity performed.
Step 7. Get Insurance
A sandwich shop will need several types of insurance for full coverage:
- General liability insurance helps to protect the business against expenses that it might face if a customer is ever injured while on the property or made sick because of an issue with the food served.
- Commercial property insurance helps to cover expenses that the business might face if its building or equipment are ever lost or damaged in an event like a fire.
- Workmans comp insurance helps to cover expenses, like medical bills or legal fees, that a business could face if an employee were hurt on the job.
The insurance cost will depend on factors like the business’ size, location, and value of its building and equipment. Requesting quotes from multiple providers can help give the most accurate idea of what insurance will cost. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the difference between premiums, but also how plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.
Step 8. Hiring Employees
A sandwich shop will need multiple employees, especially during busy times of the day. PayScale reports that sandwich makers earn an average of $9.20 per hour, though pay can range from $7.35 to $11.06 per hour.
In addition to staff salaries, a business’ budget will need to include other expenses that come with hiring employees. These expenses include workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off.
Related: Hiring your first employee
How much can you potentially make owning a sandwich shop?
Sandwich shop profits can vary dramatically depending on factors like the shop’s size, location, profit margins, and years in business. While data on independent shop profits isn’t available, franchise profit data can give you a rough idea of sandwich shop profitability. Lennys Grill & Subs reports that a free-standing sub shop brings in average gross sales of $657,963 per year. Buying into this franchise requires an investment of $193,344 to $449,399. Mashed notes that Jersey Mike’s franchise owners make approximately $73,000 per year. Starting a Jersey Mike’s franchise costs between $237,419 and $766,971. A business owner with a good idea, a well-thought-out business plan, and effective marketing could stand to do well in this industry.
Things to consider before starting a sandwich shop
Market research is essential when setting your sandwich shop up for success. Thoroughly scout out a potential location and look for competing businesses. One of the best ways to increase your shop’s chances of success is to open it in an area with minimal competition but great need for the shop.
Developing your menu can be a challenge, but it’s also what can set your shop apart from other options. Offering fresh bread that’s baked daily can earn you loyal customers who will seek out your shop for its quality food. Unique signature sandwiches can also help to make your shop memorable.
Be sure to consider your target market when developing your menu. Different cultures have different palettes, so the demand for certain types of sandwiches will vary depending on your shop’s location.