To: Sandwich Shop Owners - How To Serve A Better Sandwich Without Hurting Your Profit Margin

Mike and I split a reuben a couple weeks ago from a local Italian-style deli. It had classic reuben filling, but was made on foccacia and not grilled. The sandwich itself filled an entire styrofoam takeout container, but the bread to filling ratio was terribly high. Some bites I didn’t get filling, only bread. The bread had a good texture, but was plain, without any added flavor (no discernible butter, herbs or spices).

It was disappointing. I would have enjoyed it more if they cut the bread smaller and piled up the filling, even if the same amount of filling was used.

Remember when you’re serving food, you’re not serving only sustenance.

You’re serving an experience.

Extraordinary restaurants understand this. Think about how the food will actually be eaten by your customers, not just the quantity you’re serving. Consider how you could redesign your products to offer a better eating experience. I'm not advocating sacrificing quality for maintaining a profit margin. But if you're serving an excessively large sandwich that is mostly bland bread, you can easily improve sandwich quality and maintain profit margin simply by cutting the bread smaller and piling on the filling. It's all about the customer's experience and meeting their expectations of value. 

If you're looking for some tangible examples of traditional, deliciously memorable and successful sandwich places, the following are a few I've enjoyed in my travels:

  • If you can find Lucy Sheets and her street cart in the summer, you'll understand why she has a following. She introduced me to the bahn mi and I haven't found one as good since.
  • Mike and I found Tootie's Famous Italian Beef after we came back from a trip to Chicago and were craving an Italian beef sandwich. It had just opened and we spoke to the owner. He was awesome and the sandwich was phenom. 
  • I must have eaten close to a hundred of All-American's buffalo chicken sandwiches when I was in college. They're under new management now though, so it may not be the same.
  • Classic Katz's Deli in NYC. You remember it from When Harry Met Sally. I remember it because of their unmatched pastrami.
  • And of course, Pittsburgh's favorite meal-in-a-sandwich - Primanti's. The roast beef and cheese can't be beat.

Disclaimer: I am not compensated by any of the above establishments. I simply love spreading the word about great sandwiches.