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    Beyond Sandwiches

    Building a better lunch business

    It’s 1 p.m. on a Friday, and the Lotus Café in the just-opened Pete’s Fresh Market in Oak Park, Ill., is bustling.

    A young mom with two toddlers in tow is reading the made-to-order sandwich menu. Several customers are ordering from the hot food counter and filling containers at the well-stocked salad bar. Others are perusing the grab-and-go deli case filled with an array of salads, sushi selections and sandwiches, including 12-inch subs cut in six pieces and packaged with small bags of chips.

    This afternoon buzz underscores how important a wide variety of lunch options can be for supermarkets striving to boost midday business.

    Lunch, in fact, is a “critical daypart,” according to the 2014 Lunch Consumer Trend Report from Technomic Inc., especially as supermarket delis compete with fast casual and quickservice establishments for a slice of lunchtime sales.

    The good news about working to become the top-of-mind lunch place is that there are myriad ways to capture midday market share.

    The Fresh Market in Greensboro, N.C., for example, reaches out to customers with a website invitation to “Stop in for a quick bite, or stock up for the week with our freshly sliced deli meats and cheeses, fresh salads, handmade sandwiches, and homemade soups.”

    The store also reminds customers to “Make Lunch Time, ‘Me’ Time,” and then presents healthy lunch ideas customers can prepare at home, such as Greek tacos, salmon with field greens, and a classic PB&J.

    Sales-boosting lunch tips

    Whether you’re looking for higher lunch item sales at an in-store cafe or grab-and-go case, or appealing to service deli shoppers packing lunches at home, the following ideas can help build lunch-related business. Promote each theme in the deli area, on menu boards, online and in weekly store ads. And to perk up service deli sales of sliced meats and cheeses, offer recipes and a checklist of ingredients customers will need to create their own midday meals. Cross-merchandise as many of those ingredients as possible at or near the deli to make shopping more convenient and to increase basket size.

    • Five Days of Fantastic Sandwiches. Create a menu with a unique sandwich for each day of the work week. Experiment with different breads (think multi-grain, pretzel rolls, ciabatta, bagels and wraps) and condiments other than mayo and mustard (try sriracha, pesto, guacamole, hummus and tapenades).
    • Lunching with Leftovers. Transform rotisserie chicken into sandwiches and salads. Offer suggestions for do-it-yourself lunch menus, and include a handout of recipe suggestions (pesto chicken salad, taco roll-ups, wrap sandwiches) when a shopper purchases a rotisserie chicken.
    • Bring on the Bento. This healthy meal-in-a-box trend opens up opportunities for delis and do-it-yourself lunch makers alike—and it’s especially popular for the school-age crowd. Consider adding a display of bento box containers and suggestions for bento combinations near the deli too. 

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