Industry sector:

Sandwich bar: What to sell


Most of your income is likely to come from the sale of sandwiches, baguettes, rolls and so on. Sandwiches are very versatile and there's a huge range of fillings that you could offer your customers, from popular traditional fillings to more imaginative and exotic options. There's also a wide range of different breads available, ranging from traditional white and wholemeal breads and rolls to wraps, baguettes, ciabattas, paninis and bagels.

Your market research should give you a good idea of what fillings and breads might be popular - and of which end of the market you should target. You may have noticed that there's a gap in the market that your outlet can fill. For example, maybe no other outlets offer sandwich fillings made from locally sourced organic produce. Perhaps there's demand for gluten-free or dairy-free sandwiches, low calorie options, or for vegan products. At the end of 2015 Pret a Manger introduced a vegetarian range. While meat remains a very important filling, they expect the vegetarian range to prove popular, particularly sandwiches with avocado fillings, and sales are expected to grow.

Think about whether you'll offer eat-in sales as well as food to take-away. Space is an issue here - you'll probably need larger premises if you're planning to offer eat-in sales and you may need to take on extra staff. Current bye-laws govern the requirement for providing toilet facilities so you should ask your local council for guidance on the legal position in your area. Some councils insist that a cafe with any seating must provide toilets while others require the provision of toilets only where there are more than ten seats. Also consider whether you'll offer pre-packed sandwiches, made-to-order sandwiches or a mixture of both. Once again your market research should give you an idea of what would attract more customers.

Drinks and other products

Strong competition means that just offering a range of sandwiches and drinks probably isn't enough. There are very many other products you could offer to appeal to a wider range of potential customers and to set yourself apart from your competitors. As well as your range of sandwiches, you might decide to sell some of the following:

  • hot drinks like continental coffees and a variety of teas
  • cold drinks such as bottled water, soft drinks, fruit juices, smoothies, milkshakes and so on
  • breakfast foods like porridge, croissants, egg rolls and prepared fruit - research in 2016 showed that a third of people now eat breakfast out
  • toast, teacakes, Danish pastries and so on
  • a range of pastry products such as sausage rolls, pasties, pies and quiches
  • hot food - this might include toasted paninis, soups, and jacket potatoes. Hot foods sell particularly well during the colder winter months but can cause queues if they take time to cook or heat up
  • pre-prepared salads and pastas
  • snacks like crisps, cereal bars and confectionery
  • organic and Fairtrade products including coffee, tea, fruit and fruit juices
  • desserts - for example cakes, yoghurts and ice creams

When thinking about what other products you might offer, it's worth considering:

  • whether there's enough demand for the extra products you plan to offer - or if you can create it
  • the amount of space your premises has and where you will display any extra products - for example, will you have room for an extra chiller, or for cooking and heating equipment if you decide to offer hot food
  • where you will purchase your additional stock from - will you be able to get it from your current suppliers
  • whether wastage will be a problem if you plan to sell many perishable items

Because the take-away food industry and the lunch-time market are so competitive it's important to keep up with changes in consumer preferences. You should probably introduce new menu choices at fairly regular intervals. But it goes without saying that you should take care not to replace any customer favourites.