Surviving the chains
By Jody Reese
Manchesterís newest Subway opened this in Hampshire Plaza, drawing large crowds.
It will be joined downtown soon by a Quiznos These chains will be competing for their customers against local sandwich mom-and-pop shops.
I have mixed feelings about this. I like the diversity the small, locally owned, sandwich shops bring to the city, and I know that Subway and Quiznos will surely cut into their business. However, I like the longer hours that the franchises offer (both the Subway and Quiznos are owned by Manchester residents). Subway is open on Sundays and open late on weeknights. Quiznos likely will have similar hours. Unfortunately those tend to be the hours I get around to eating.
If the mom-and-pops are to survive (and they can) they need to emulate some of the winning strategies of the chains.
First, longer hours. Itís true that most small sandwich shop owners donít have managers. They do almost all the work themselves. So staying open late, say until 9 or 10 p.m. would mean working an 18 hour day. Thatís just not going to happen. Hiring managers and offering better wages might help in giving that owner a competitive edge. Still, itís hard.
Second, find your niche. Many downtown sandwich shops already do this. By serving food that no one else serves and in an atmosphere that is unique small businesses can attract customers.
Third, price. Chains usually arenít any cheaper overall than mom-and-pops, but they do offer a few inexpensive menu items. Profits lost on an inexpensive sandwich can be made up on a soft drink or a side order of fries.
Fourth, advertise. And that doesnít necessarily mean in this paper (though thatís not a bad idea). Advertising can take many forms, including visible signage, posters (not hand written notes), and flyers. Every business needs to find a cost effective way to reach customers in its trade area (about seven square miles).
Fifth, train employees. This can be a tough one. Many times food service employees donít stick around long enough to train them or the small business owner is so busy he or she doesnít have the time to train. I know. I run into that at Hippo all the time. But itís worth the time. A well-trained employee saves time down the road.
Sixth, and finally, a clean and professional storefront. The chains higher professional designers to come up with store concepts to attract customers. While thatís unrealistic for most mom-and-pops, keeping a tidy and well-thought-out store creates an environment that attracts customers.
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