Upper Crust

With the Greatest of Ease

Unlike many other quick-service franchise concepts, gourmet sandwiches require little cooking or other preparation, making an upscale sandwich franchise ideal for entrepreneurs who lack restaurant experience, says Stimola. "I designed this concept so you don't have to be a [restaurateur] to run it. There's no cooking in our stores--the food comes ready to go--just [reheat] and serve it to customers. Even the business side isn't as demanding. We have computerized cash registers that track inventory, labor costs, accounting and purchasing, which makes it very simple to run our stores." And because much of the food comes prepared, the average upscale sandwich franchise doesn't require a large outlay of capital for ovens, fryers and other kitchen equipment.

While being a successful upscale sandwich franchisee may not demand much in the way of cooking skills, you should still have some general business experience, a drive to succeed and, most important, a friendly attitude, says Stimola. "We're looking for outgoing people who are entrepreneurially spirited," he adds. "At the end of the day, the most important thing is people skills. If you don't like to be around people, you don't belong in the restaurant business."

Upscale sandwich franchises are a relatively new phenomenon. As such, a large segment of the potential market for these gourmet foods remains untapped, says Jim Kucik, 30, a Wall Street Deli franchisee in Orlando, Florida. "Business is good and getting better, but with one of these [sandwich] stores, building a night business is one of the big challenges," says Kucik. "If you open in a good market, your lunch crowd is going to be there without a doubt. The difficulty is building [traffic during] the rest of the day."

While there may not be an upscale sandwich shop on your block yet, expect the growing popularity of this quick-service concept to quickly attract large numbers of hungry competitors, says Coen. "Right now, [upscale sandwich shops] are still a relatively small segment of the market. In terms of development, this is a good stage to get in on it. The only downside to getting in early is there are more mistakes to be made. But the higher the risk, the higher the reward."

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This article was originally published in the June 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Upper Crust.

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