Equipment for a sandwich shop falls into three general categories—food prep, cooking, and holding. (Of course, like any foodservice operation, you’ll also need storage—both dry and refrigerated—cleaning equipment and supplies and warewashing.) But the equipment you choose in any one of these categories really depends on your concept and menu.
If, for example, you want to open a sub shop, you likely won’t need much cooking equipment except a countertop cheese melter/salamander. Likewise, for deli sandwiches, you won’t need much except a toaster for items like bagels and lox or a BLT. If your concept is panini sandwiches, a panini grill/sandwich press or two might be all you need. If your menu includes items such a grilled cheese or Reuben, you’ll want a countertop griddle at a minimum and more likely a 48-in. flattop griddle. Add fries or a sandwich like a Monte Carlo to your menu and you’ll add a fryer to your equipment list.
Or take bread. You could bake your own bread, but that would require a separate baking area in your shop. To keep labor costs low and devote space to making and selling sandwiches, you may choose to buy commercial breads instead. To increase the perception that your sandwiches are fresh, though, you may want the smell of baking bread to be the first thing customers experience. You could buy a frozen or parbaked product and finish it in your store. In that case, you’ll need a good convection oven.
Use your menu to go through this list of suggested equipment, and see what will work best for your concept.
Sandwich Prep Equipment
Having ready-to-use sandwich ingredients and fillings on hand requires prep time and space, and assembling sandwiches to order also requires prep space. Here’s what to think about:
- Walk-in/reach-in refrigeration. To hold all the refrigerated ingredients sandwiches require (meat, cheese, dairy, produce, etc.) and prepared foods (tuna/chicken/egg salad, sliced meat/cheese, etc.), you’ll need a small walk-in or a two-door reach-in—maybe two. If you plan on purchasing frozen ingredients, put a freezer on your list. (Read also: the “Walk-In Coolers and Freezers Buying Guide” and the “Reach-In Refrigerators and Freezers Buying Guide” from Central Restaurant Products.)
- Prep table and sink. Give yourself enough workspace that two people can prep different items at the same time—slicing meat and cheese, and slicing tomatoes and produce, for example, or preparing batches of egg salad.
- Meat/cheese slicer. Purchase a good, heavy-duty slicer that will stand up to your anticipated volume.
- Food processor/vegetable cutter. A good food processor gives you the ability to slice produce, shred or grate cheese, and whip up sauces and spreads like aioli. If you plan to open a sub shop with lots of veggie ingredients, you might want a dedicated vegetable cutter, too.
- Tomato slicer. Specialty tomato slicers will often give you more consistent, better quality slices than cutting by hand or using a vegetable cutter.
- Bread and bagel slicers. Cut fresh loaves to the desired thickness for sandwiches, consistently—a special touch that conveys quality to guests (and quality is a benefit they may be willing to pay more for).
- Scale. Measuring portions of ingredients, such as sliced meat, will help you keep food costs in check.
- Refrigerated sandwich prep table. Whether you put this in the back of the house or out on the service line, it will speed sandwich assembly and hold ingredients at the proper temperature.
Depending on your projected volume, you can choose countertop or full-size floor models of these equipment pieces. Be aware that some—like a fryer and traditional griddle—will require a Type I exhaust hood, while equipment like speed ovens and sandwich presses will not. (Read also: “Restaurant Hood System-Why It Matters” from Central Restaurant Products.)
- Griddle. Use for grilled cheese, Reuben sandwiches and Philly cheesesteaks as well as for cooking bacon, eggs, chicken breasts and other ingredients.
- Speed oven. A conveyor/impinger oven, microwave oven or microwave/convection/radiant combination oven will heat, toast, brown or cook in under two minutes.
- Cheese melter/salamander. Even without a speed oven, this can put the finishing touch on an open-faced sandwich, topped with cheese or not.
- Panini grill/sandwich press. A handy countertop appliance to have, it can toast sandwiches on both sides while heating the insides. It can also grill quesadillas, and some models can even cook burgers, chicken fillets or steaks.
- Fryer. Another optional piece of equipment, a fryer would let you add more items to the menu, such as French fries or housemade chips as well as more types of handhelds like popular fried chicken sandwiches.
These pieces of equipment help you put your best foot forward by maintaining food quality, temperature and appearance, and by extending your menu offerings with beverages and sides.
- Hot holding cabinet. Keep breads warm and moist with a humidity-controlled cabinet
- Refrigerated deli merchandising case for deli salads, side salads and ready-made sandwiches.
- Countertop food warmer/merchandiser.
- Soup warmer/kettle.
- Ice machine.
- Beverage dispenser.
- Glass-door reach-in or undercounter fridge for canned/bottled beverages, desserts, yogurt, pasta salads and more.
- Retail display case/merchandiser for chips, snacks, cookies, etc.
Smallwares and Supplies
- Utensils such as kitchen/bread knives, sandwich spreaders, spatulas, tongs, soup ladles.
- Cutting boards should be color-coded for food safety.
- Gloves, towels, aprons, oven mitts.
- Hotel pans—choose full-size for prepped ingredients and smaller sizes for refrigerated prep tables.
- Food storage containers, food wrap/foil.
- Condiment caddies.
- Napkin dispensers.
- Tableware, glassware, flatware, ramekins, etc.
- Disposables for sandwich shops include wrapping paper, cups/lids/straws, utensils, bags, etc.
- Paper goods (napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.).
Warewashing and Cleaning Equipment
The basics are obvious, and often dictated by health codes, but you’ll want to consider the volume of your business when choosing a dish machine.
- Three-compartment sink. Health code may require it whether you have a dish machine or not. (Read also: the “Compartment Sink Buying Guide” by Central Restaurant Products.)
- Hand-washing sink. Again, make sure you understand what is required by local code.
- Dishmachine. Even if your service is all on disposables, a dishwasher helps quickly clean up back-of-the-house utensils, pans, food containers and the like. You’ll likely want a door-type machine, but an undercounter dishwasher may suffice. (Read also: the “Commercial Dishwasher Buying Guide” by Central Restaurant Products.)
- Cleaning supplies and chemicals, including a broom/dustpan, mop/bucket as well as detergent, spray cleaners, sanitizer solution, towels, etc.
While many customers choose sandwich shops for grab-and-go, you may want to offer dine-in seating for the lunchtime or after-school crowd.
- Tables/chairs—don’t forget booster seats and highchairs for your youngest guests.
- Menu boards and signage.
Hope has been a Content Specialist since November 2015, where she brings to the table years of experience in the food service industry in a variety of roles. Throughout her time with Central, Hope has focused on learning all things possible about everything from cooking equipment to concession and specialty products in order to empower operators with education on commercial equipment and supplies. Hope is a wife, new mom, avid crafter, and food lover (french fries please!).