x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

SME Corner: Luxury sandwich operation? Sounds easy doesn’t it, but read on

A new luxury sandwich delivery service gets advice on how to beat the competition from our SME corner columnist Yunib Siddiqui.

I want to set up a luxury sandwich delivery service in Dubai. While I realise I am going up against a wall of competition, I still believe my product will be better. I want to know the best way for me to differentiate myself from my competitors. So, how should start-ups entering an already crowded market handle themselves to ensure they stand out? PD, Dubai

It’s interesting that you wish to focus on delivering luxury sandwiches. The first question I would ask is how you define luxury? Here’s how I would define it: top quality produce, standout ingredients that highlight recipe innovation, full control of the production process, high quality packaging and thoughtful attention to detail.

Does your definition of the luxury sandwich encompass all of this and more?

Home delivery is de rigueur in the UAE but how often have you placed an order and you’ve struggled to get your message across or the delivery driver does not reflect the perceived brand values of the establishment that is delivering the food?

These are all extremely important questions that need answering before you consider delivering luxury sandwiches that are better than the rest.

When Jones the Grocer was researching the launch of its corporate and home delivery pilot we struggled to find luxury sandwich producers that ticked all the boxes.

The few that delivered good sandwiches (mainly five-star establishments or top-notch cafes) required a high minimum order and lengthy advance notice periods. Frankly, I don’t believe the market is a “wall of competition”.

High start-up costs, low volumes, high imported raw material costs and the difficulty in acquiring the skills needed to provide the all-embracing luxury experience at an economical cost are just some of the reasons there isn’t a wall of competition out there.

Luxury brands control their customer experience from end to end and in doing so they also ratchet up cost and selling price and place themselves at the thin end of the pyramid.

I am guessing that you have already invested in a production kitchen in an industrial zone. This kitchen would be designed to ensure you meet municipality regulations for food preparation, storage and waste disposal.

Your bespoke packaging will need to be bought in large minimum print runs and you will need segregated storage for all your non-food materials. A separate area will be needed to pack and quality-control your sandwiches before delivery.

You will also need office space for your sales team to take orders, for your chefs to innovate and conduct training. Chilled vehicles with articulate drivers will be required to deliver your finished product to customers.

If you have cracked all these challenges you could be onto a winner. Here’s a non-exhaustive shortlist of how to differentiate your product in the marketplace:

Develop and engineer recipes that accent innovation and flavour

Use premium ingredients and point them out to your customers

Be consistently good. A luxury delivery product must pack the same experience every time.

Pay as much attention to the fillings as you do to the bread. Produce both so you control the entire taste experience.

Selling, packaging, presentation and delivery are extremely important. Make sure your order takers and delivery team are well-trained and dressed appropriately. Pay attention to everything that surrounds your product.

Sandwiches tend to be an impulse buy. A personal assistant may have just a few hours to organise a sandwich platter for an important board meeting. Your team should be prepared to react quickly without sacrificing the customer’s experience.

Ensure your team can explain clearly what they can and can’t do. Say no if any element of the customer experience is compromised.

Spend time designing your marketing collateral so it reflects the luxury segment of the market you are aiming for and then work hard to get the right public relations

Make it easy for your customers to pay. Take credit cards over the phone and give your drivers a GPS credit card machine.

I don’t think the luxury sandwich market is terribly crowded. As you’ve already got yourself off the ground, now get your team to really focus on developing your recipes and your finished luxury product.

Then thoroughly document and implement all your business processes so you can sell one of Dubai’s first premium sandwiches that meet all the expectations associated with a luxury brand. And good luck.

Yunib Siddiqui started his first business in London at the age of 22. He is the chief executive and owner of Jones the Grocer in the UAE. He can be contacted at SMEbizCorner@gmail.com