Sandwiches programs are increasingly a grab-and-go game, but retailers are realizing they have to hedge their bets as well with a service offering. Most of the retailers SN interviewed said at least 80% of their sandwich sales were from the self-service case. While some are adding sandwiches at the service counter, or setting up made-to-order stations, others are concentrating more on expanding the program's self-service component.
A deli director from a Midwestern chain who asked to not be named said most of his stores' sandwich sales come from the self-service case. Still, it's important to let customers know that you'll make them any sandwich to order, he insisted.
"You can put a good variety of big sellers in the self-service case, but there's always someone who might want headcheese with mustard," he warned. "How could you anticipate that?"
Diane Velasquez, spokeswoman at Cosentino Price Chopper, an 11-unit retailer based in Kansas City, Mo., has a goal of expanding self-service sandwich space to 4 to 6 feet in every store within the year. At present, some of Cosentino's stores have only 2 feet of grab-and-go sandwiches, she said.
About 75% of her sandwich business is self-service, but she expects to boost that percentage. "I think we're missing a lot of business we could pick up in the self-service case," Velasquez said.
"People don't want to stand in line. We've already consolidated, limiting made-to-order sandwich-making to the shaved meat section. It's faster there," she said, adding that customers are directed to the section with signs. In the self-service case, two rows of children's box lunches have been so successful that Consentino is taking that concept a step further.
"We're going to offer a box lunch for adults and a low-fat box lunch will be one of the choices," Velasquez said.
Velasquez agreed with other retailers that self-service has to be well managed in order to generate sales and profits. Cosentino, for example, just hired a merchandiser whose main responsibility is to see that sandwiches and related items in self-service are merchandised properly.
Gianfranco DiCarlo, deli, bakery and food-service director at Harris Teeter, a 140-unit chain based in Charlotte, N.C., said "controlled self-service" is the way to go.
"You can't just put sandwiches in the case and forget about them. You need someone checking that case four, five, eight, 10 times a day to make sure everything looks good, to make sure the light hasn't faded out the meat or that someone hasn't overturned a container," he said.
"A piece of lettuce that's turned black or a wilted garnish can stop the sale of a beautiful sandwich," DiCarlo said. Harris Teeter recently switched from wrapping sandwiches in butcher paper to displaying them in clear clamshells for better presentation, he added.