How to start a sandwich franchise

Take a bite out of a tasty business proposition

What is it?
How much can I earn?
Tips for success

What is it?

Changing lunchtime fashions have brought us soup bars, sushi and noodles. However nothing has quite managed to replace the traditional sandwich on most people’s menu. True, we’ve moved away from mild cheddar on sliced white to include baguettes, wraps and bagels, but the concept is basically the same. So the sandwich shop is here to stay and with a number of sandwich franchise operations intent on UK coverage you too could get a bite of the action.

The three sandwich franchises featured here operate on very different levels. But one thing they have in common is they are all looking to grow fairly aggressively in the near future. Which makes them good opportunities for you to enter the sandwich bar market. Subway is a very big name with more than 18,000 Subway restaurants in 76 countries worldwide. It isn’t a particularly well known here though; something the franchisor is very keen to change.

As Deirdre Anderson, development agent for Subway, says, “In the past five years we’ve established 56 franchisees here. But we aim to grow this exponentially in the next 10. By 2011 we want to rival McDonalds with 2000 stores.”

And if you haven’t heard of them – yet – the concept behind Subway is a six or 12 inch ‘submarine’ shaped sandwiches filled as you order from a variety of meats, fish, cheese etc and topped off with salads and sauces. Its message is ‘eat fresh’ – you can still eat fast food without sacrificing a balanced diet.

It is also seeking to challenge the traditional hours of a sandwich shop. “Depending on the location, a Subway store might open late for the pub and club crowd as well as for early breakfast at 7.30,” says Deirdre.

In other words – prepare to be flexible. O’Brien’s Irish Sandwich bars funnily enough didn’t originate in the UK either. But with stores in Ireland, America, and Australia, it’s now expanding here too. Units vary from kiosks in stations or airports to large fully seated cafes.

Again focusing in on the ‘fresh’ aspect, customers see their sandwiches prepared while they wait. There is more of a lunchtime emphasis with a direct target market of 18-34 year old white-collar employees though this again depends on location.

Cambridge franchisee Rob Shields explains, “I have one store which is part of an arts cinema so I there I open 10.00am to 8.00pm. However in the business district, business is dead by 3.00pm so there’s no point in staying open much later – you would need to be open for breakfast, though.”

The name of the third sandwich franchise gives away that it isn’t strictly a sandwich shop but it is catering for the same market. Mr Bagel’s is a small chain of north London outlets that sells fresh baked plain and filled bagels. It isn’t an internationally known franchise but shares a desire for expansion with the other two franchisors.

Again, a keen selling point is that it sells only the freshest bagels and that they are baked to a traditional recipe – then frozen for the convenience of those running the outlet. So again you don’t need catering experience to finish off part baked bagels and fill them to order.

With all three franchisees the key issue is that these are not pre packed goods. The customer gets to watch exactly what goes into the sandwich.


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