Culinary Corner: Sliced Bread

What goes together like peanut butter and jelly? C-stores and sandwiches, of course

By
Abbey Lewis, Executive Editor

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It has its own day. The first time that day rolled around in 1992, it was commemorated with a 500-foot-long hoagie outside city hall. It was, on that day, named the “official sandwich of Philadelphia.”

That’s a very big deal for a sandwich.

The Wawa hoagie is the epitome of everything a convenience store sandwich can be. Its Classic variety is available, with one topping or another, in 1.683 trillion different combinations. In a year, the retailer uses the equivalent of nine Boeing 747s worth of cheese (in tons). Enough Classic hoagies are purchased and consumed in one year to fill 100 football fields.

“Our customers want quality products that are prepared consistently and delivered in a fast and friendly manner. It makes our customers happy when they can go to any Wawa and get their favorite product, just like they remember it ,” says Amanda Matyok, brand manager for p.m. foodservice at Wawa.

The sandwich has a solid profile in the total foodservice sphere. According to a report prepared by Food Genius, in which the Chicago-based firm tracks menu-level data from 314,000 operators, 77% of those menus feature the sandwich.

According to the Culinary Visions Panel, a Chicago-based foodservice research firm, deli-style sandwiches account for 32% of foodservice orders in the c-store. Roller grill comes in ahead of sandwiches at 54%; pizza is ordered approximately 29% of the time. Chicago-based Technomic reports that cold sandwiches own 40% share of hand-held sales, with hot dogs accounting for 25% and hamburgers 5%.

It doesn’t take scale to succeed with making and selling sandwiches. Independent owner and operator Scott Zaremba is creating his own brand.

Zaremba, who runs seven Zarco 66 convenience locations in Lawrence, Kan., as well as three (soon to be four) Sandbar Sub Shops, says his stores bake their bread on site and try to buy local produce for toppings when in season.

“We’re changing what you would typically see in the industry to something fresher,” Zaremba says.

Sandbar Subs began development three years ago, and it’s currently in three locations. The concept began as a single, stand-alone operation, then moved into Zaremba’s Zarco 66 c-stores. The company is opening another stand-alone outlet, next to a Zarco 66, this spring. The menu has 15 varieties, including High Seas Tuna Salad and Turkey Catamaran. Sandbar uses touch-screen technology for in-store ordering, or online ordering for pickup. Zaremba also has plans for at-the-pump ordering.

Even as both Wawa and Sandbar Subs are made fresh to order, the companies are sensitive to the theater. Sandbar Subs proofs and bakes its bread fresh in every store, and Wawa just began baking rolls in its stores in December.

Freshness Factor

It’s the stereotype in the room: C-stores don’t stock fresh, appetizing food. This assessment has obviously been challenged, but it’s been an uphill battle to shake it, especially for prepackaged, ready-made varieties. To that end, several distributors have upgraded their offering and are working with operators to bolster the sensory appeal of their fresh program.

“In the world of fresh, stale products are commonly associated with both food on the shelf as well as the assortment itself,” says Hope LaGrone, product director for McLane Co., Temple, Texas. “Therefore, we strive to stay at the forefront of consumer insights and product innovation.”

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