Roll with it

As butchers, you might be inclined to ignore British Sandwich Week, but take a second look, says Adam Baker

If you have not had time to make a sandwich in the morning and you are looking for somewhere to have a quick lunch, you usually end up choosing from the following options - the supermarket, the local shop, the baker or the petrol station. Yet often, sandwiches from the supermarkets and garages can be disappointing, unimaginative and seem as if they were made the day before, which is why independent bakeries do quite well.

The most recent statistics from the British Sandwich Association (BSA) show that 25% of sandwiches are bought from multiple grocers such as Marks & Spencer, 22% are bought at bakers, 19% are purchased at the workplace, 15% from café and sandwich bars and 5% from convenience stores and corner shops. What is quite evident though is that the great British public love a bit of meat in their sandwiches. Many polls on the subject show that bacon, chicken, ham and duck come up trumps when it comes to most popular fillings and with beef and other pork cuts also thrown in the mix, butchers could be sitting on an unearthed granary goldmine.


Getting started

You have got the meat but a sandwich comes with more than that. Some butchers bake their own bread anyway, but if this is not practical in your shop, then look out for wholesalers and cash-and-carry if you want to start out on the cheap or, if you have got the budget for the higher end of the market, then why not try specialist food firms or do a deal with a local baker, providing they do not make sandwiches themselves and see you as a new competitor.

"Our bread and vegetables come in daily," says Tom Rowlandson, assistant manager of Blackfoot Butchers near Tottenham Court Road. "We use our own meat, so there is more quality control as we know the farmer, the breed of the animal and the date of the kill." Blackfoot has been open since October and the shop opens at midday Monday to Friday, just in time for the lunchtime crowd of hungry office workers and passers-by. One area Blackfoot is looking into is sandwich deliveries to local businesses. The company offers office picnics and hampers and one company has enquired about arranging a regular delivery on a Monday to feed 50 people. Starting a sandwich side-operation is a big risk, however, as it is not a traditional area for a butcher to go down. Tom understands this very well and feels that many butchers lack the experience, knowledge and confidence


Solving staffing issues

Staffing is also an issue, as a butcher will usually employ a handful of people, but starting up a sandwich business will require a few more handmaking the sandwiches - a time-consuming task in the morning on top of all the other chores that need to be done before doors are open. The important issue is to research whether the demand exists in the local area for a new sandwich business with good-quality meat from a name that can be trusted. Investigating local business, science and retail parks, to see what the options are in these locations when workers are looking for their lunch, is always a good start. You could ring a few of companies up and enquire whether they have a canteen on their premises or, if not, have someone come in to sell sandwiches and ask what they charge. If it is practical, you could be in a position to undercut the existing supplier.

Being both butcher and baker always helps. This is the fortunate situation that Curtis of Lincoln finds itself in. The Curtis family has been producing food for the people of Lincolnshire since the 19th century and have been making sandwiches for over 15 years. "It is an excellent way to diversify and increase trade," says company director Neil Curtis. The company sources local pork and also tries out sandwich fillings, such as Chicken Tikka or Corned Beef and Spring Onion. Neil says he also delivers sandwiches to some Spar shops in the area. Indeed, contract work, delivering sandwiches to other outlets from where they can be sold, is probably a more realistic avenue for a butcher than selling sandwiches directly from the shop, where success relies solely on passing trade.


Hammie it up

In its infinite wisdom, the British Sandwich Association (BSA) has decided to launch a sandwich range to coincide with British Sandwich Week (BSW) from 10-16 May, designed to help the food and farming industry. Called the Hammie, it has been designed as triple-pack sandwich, containing three different flavours: gammon ham with cream cheese, chives and cucumbers on white bread; gammon ham with English mustard mayonnaise and lettuce on granary bread; and gammon ham with free-range egg and watercress on granary.

BSA director Jim Winship says: "We felt this was one way that our industry could play its part in supporting British farmers and food producers through these difficult times. Wherever possible, the industry will be using British ingredients and we hope that the public will support our efforts by making it their number one sandwich for the period." Taking part in BSW involves no cost and to get detailed recipes and information about the Week, retailers simply have to register on the BSA website at www.sandwich.org.uk or call 01291 636338. Copies of the full recipes will then be made available once registered.

"The BSW Hammie range is intended to be flexible. Retailers can use one of the recipes to make a single Hammie, a combination of two or the full set - whatever they feel suits their particular customers and business," adds Winship.

The main emphasis of the week is to sell sandwiches that use British-produced ingredients and the initiative has the backing of both BPEX and the British Meat Processors' Association. Starting a sandwich business using the best of British produce could well be the start of a successful side-operation for your firm.


Van about town

A delivery van for sandwiches can be an expensive investment for any butcher, as the insurance can become astronomical, but insurer Adrian Flux reckons it has got the answers. Cover for vans that make frequent stops can be hard to find. Adrian Flux estimates that a typical small commercial van policy might only cover three to five delivery drops a day with extra cover, if available, being extortionate.

However, the Norfolk firm has launched a scheme specifically designed to insure small businesses, allowing them to make regular and repeat deliveries without compromising insurance cover and without costing an extortionate amount. The Flux policy is said to offer no restrictions on delivery stops, so any urgent order or quick sale need not wait.

Adrian Flux's Julie Carter says: "Most insurance companies seem very wary of covering busy small business vans. Their reasoning is that frequent stops and starts are seen as a bigger risk than continuous driving. But we felt this was unfair and, when we looked at the statistics, it was clear that there were many other factors at work. There was no evidence to us that the smaller business is a significantly greater risk when making multiple deliveries."

She adds: "So we now offer multi-delivery insurance for those who need it. As long as other conditions make the policyholder a good risk, the fact that the van is making a lot of deliveries shouldn't be a barrier to getting affordable cover."


Top Ten UK Sandwich Fillings

1. Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato

2. Egg and Cress

3. Chicken and Bacon

4. Prawn Salad

5. Chicken Salad

6. Cheese and Pickle

7. Tuna and Sweetcorn

8. Ham and Salad

9. Cheese and Tomato

10. Egg and Bacon