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The right image is crucial
At the most basic level, a sandwich shop has to project an image of wholesomeness, quality and cleanliness. In the past, that’s all you would have needed, but unfortunately nowadays image and brand are often seen as more important that the product being sold !
That doesn’t mean you can offer poor food and make up for it with a glossy shop, that certainly won’t work, but it does mean that your shop will need a corporate image in addition to an excellent menu.
So how are you going to project the right image ? Bear in mind that the customer will have judged your establishment before entering the building, and first impressions count hugely. Your shop must look clean and professional from the outside.
You might have the best tasting sandwiches for a hundred miles but unless you can get people through the door , it counts for nothing. The big players such as Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC etc have spent years and billions of dollars persuading us to eat and spend our money in glossy, fancy looking places.
So if your first thought were to get hold of a shop, bung in some tables and chairs, lay down some lino and watch the cash roll in, forget it. Consumers expect more and are used to getting it. Unless your shop looks the business, you will be out of business before even starting. Its as simple as that.
You might think I am being a bit harsh here but consider this. If you are given a choice between two sandwich shops side by side, one gleaming and the other a bit run down. Which one would you enter ? Most people would choose the nicer looking establishment.
They would make that choice pretty rapidly to, without even analysing why. The reasons are very simple though. When faced with a dingy looking shop most people would assume that the rest of the operation is going to be dingy as well. Expectations will be low, and hygiene may be suspect. These quick assumptions may be completely false, but that doesn’t them walking into the smarter looking shop.
Granted, a lot of sandwich shops stay running that don’t look all that great, but they tend to be the ones just getting by, not earning much money. You can often find them for sale in Daltons Weekly at supposedly bargain prices.
Getting the look
Getting a professional look, and projecting the right image, does not mean you must spend a fortune, or give up on the idea of being an independent, and buying a franchise. Striking a balance between the best look possible and costs isn’t easy, but it can be done. I discovered this whilst researching ‘the look’ for our first shop.
As part of my research I had investigated plenty of independent shops and a couple of the large franchises. In fact, Starbucks was the first sandwich/coffee bar that I looked closely at. The glossy image of their shops was perfect, but emulating that kind of look was way beyond my budget, so that was a non starter from the word go. Pret A Manger was also examined for inspiration, but rejected for the same reasons.
However, when I took a closer look at the average Subway sandwich shop, it soon became apparent that they took a different approach to most of their competitors, choosing simplicity in preference to expensive shopfitting and interior décor.
Walk into any Subway store, especially the smaller ones, and you will soon see that although they are well laid out and very professional looking, they are not packed with ultra expensive chrome, glass and leather. The counters and furniture are neat and functional. Its no coincidence that the start up costs for a Subway are lower than most of its competitors. You may not think that a Subway shop is all that much to look at, but they have 23,000 stores worldwide, and have struck a good balance between costs and image.
Investigate and learn – don’t just copy
Now, I am not suggesting for one minute that you can blatantly copy every aspect of a franchised store, do that and legal action is an absolute certainty. But you can investigate, learn and observe. You can take that information and mould it to your own requirements and achieve that professional look without breaking the bank. Use the internet, look at other chains in other parts of the world, you could pick up some very nice ideas to incorporate into your venture.
You may decide to choose your own shop style and theme. Be careful selecting colours, avoid heavy clashing or contrasts. There is a definite skill in getting colour balance just right, one which I certainly do not possess ! If your colour co-ordination skills are a bit like mine, then getting advice could be worthwhile.
Some of the better independent shops do have some nice touches. A popular idea is to get hold of framed photographs of your town and use them to decorate the walls. Others make good use of pottery or wood carvings. Flowers are often seen, either cut or dried. I personally see them as to much hassle, but if you don’t mind the maintenance then fine. It should really go without saying that dead or dying flowers ought to be removed and not allowed to wither away in view of customers.
You may decide that the image of your shop is going to be one of simplicity, with subtle artwork covering the walls, or perhaps the retro look. You may choose a nautical theme, with authentic artefacts from a previous era. To a certain extent the image that you choose will be determined by local factors and your own preferences and experiences.
Using a design consultant
If you are stuck for creative inspiration then calling in the experts could be an option, there are companies that could take care of everything for you. Your entire look, image, colour scheme and logo could be custom designed especially for you. Some of them are very good and could undoubtedly come up with an image that you are happy with.
Two points to keep in mind
- You are going to pay for this advice and expertise.
- The final results may be somewhat less appealing than you first imagined.
Establishing your identity
Your identity is how you want your customers to see you. How will they `identify` you as being different from the other shops around, which in some cases may be alongside you or just around the corner. Your business will have to stand out in some way, be memorable to the customer.
You probably have some idea of how to do this already, perhaps you will become known as the king of exotic cheese fillings. Or maybe your stuffed turkey sandwiches just cannot be beaten. Choosing your identity can only be done by you. The one piece of advice that I can give, is that you may change your mind several times before finding your true identity, don’t let this bother you it is perfectly normal.