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Most Profitable Deli Foods to Help Grow Your Bottom Line

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Justin GuinnAuthor

With a focus on customizable sandwiches and quick eats, deli operators can help maximize their profitability by offering the most profitable deli foods.

Cost-effective ingredients, recipe creativity, strategic pricing, and customer preferences are all important factors in achieving success in the deli business. Whether it's soups and sandwiches, salads, drinks, or sides, the most profitable deli foods can help menus strike a balance between popularity and profitability.

In this article, we'll explore the key ingredients of sustained deli profitability, delve into individual menu item profitability of sandwiches and more, and explain how restaurant cost breakdowns can help deli operators analyze menu items to calculate plate costs, menu prices, and overall profitability.

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Key ingredients of sustained deli profitability

Deli operators may consider the following factors to ensure sustained profitability for deli and sandwich shop menu items.

  1. Cost-effective ingredients: Deli foods often rely on affordable ingredients such as cured meats, cheeses, bread, and fresh produce. Utilizing cost-effective ingredients can help deli operators maintain profitability without compromising on quality.

  2. Quality and variety: When it comes to deli foods, quality and variety are key. Offering a range of high-quality meats, cheeses, and toppings can help attract customers and justify premium pricing.

  3. Creative recipes and signature items: Stand out from the competition by creating unique sandwiches and signature items. Experiment with different bread types, spreads, and fillings to create one-of-a-kind combinations that customers won't find anywhere else.

  4. Seasonal specials: Incorporating seasonal ingredients into your deli offerings can help generate more guest demand. Whether it's seasonal salads, soups, or sandwiches, customers will be enticed by the freshness and variety.

  5. Upselling opportunities: Provide customers with options to customize their sandwiches and create upselling opportunities. Offer premium toppings, add-ons, or combo deals that encourage customers to spend a little extra.

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Achieving success with strategic menu item pricing

Strategic menu pricing is essential for achieving profitability in the deli business. Deli owners may want to consider the following tactics when determining the prices for your deli menu items.

  1. Cost analysis: Understand the cost of ingredients, labor, and overhead to establish a baseline price. Ensure that your pricing not only covers costs but also allows for a reasonable profit margin.

  2. Value perception: Highlight the quality and taste of your deli foods to create a perception of high value. Use attractive packaging, display your products effectively, and promote the freshness and premium ingredients that go into each sandwich.

  3. Combo deals and specials: Offer combo deals that include a sandwich, side, and drink. These value-packed options can attract customers and increase your overall profitability.

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Most profitable deli foods

Let's explore some of the most profitable deli foods that can help enhance your deli's success and bring in profits.

  1. Specialty sandwiches: Offer a selection of unique and creative sandwich combinations that cater to different taste preferences. Don't be afraid to experiment with different bread types, spreads, and fillings to make your sandwiches stand out.

  2. Salad bar: Incorporate a self-serve salad bar where customers can build their own salads with an array of fresh vegetables, toppings, and dressings. You can go a step further and charge by weight to maximize profit potential.

  3. Gourmet soups: Craft delicious soups from scratch using high-quality ingredients. Offer a variety of flavors, including vegetarian and gluten-free options, to cater to a wide range of preferences.

  4. Deli platters: Cater to larger groups or events by offering deli platters filled with an assortment of meats, cheeses, and bread. Provide options for customization and make the platters visually appealing.

  5. Specialty sides and snacks: Complement your deli foods with a selection of specialty sides and snacks such as homemade chips, pickles, coleslaw, or unique dips. These items can be sold as add-ons to boost profitability.

Focusing on the most profitable deli and sandwich shop foods can help operators tap into a thriving market and establish a profitable venture. 

By utilizing cost-effective ingredients, offering unique and creative recipes, implementing strategic pricing, and catering to customer preferences, your deli or sandwich shop can achieve sustained profitability and delight customers with delicious and customizable offerings.

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Optimizing deli operations with the right blend of tech and service models

Offering the right deli foods can help optimize the overall profitability of your business. Stacking some or all of these most profitable deli foods into your menu may help boost profit margins on your sales.

Here are a few other ways to help encourage greater profitability, including cost breakdowns, technology, and optimized service models for your deli.

Adjust what goes into each sandwich

Calculating the food costs for every recipe and menu item can show you exactly the costs and profit margins for every order. The combination of recipe cost, portion costs, and individual ingredient costs can help deli owners see exactly how each component is contributing to the overall profitability — making it easier to achieve an ideal balance between portions, prices, and profits.

Remove popular items that have lost profitability

If costs become too high for a particular item, you may want to be careful not to get trapped. Underbelly Hospitality Group realized that the cost of chicken wings had risen dramatically, fluctuating between 30 and 40 percent higher than usual. Rather than sacrifice the quality or portion size of their famed, crowd-pleaser wings, they pulled them entirely.

Get more efficient with scheduling

More staff doesn’t equal better service. Too many team members and not enough work leads to complacency — in the front and back of house. Restaurant scheduling software built for delis and sandwich shops can integrate with payroll tools to help you take control of your weekly staff schedule and associated costs.

Implement the New Steps of Service

What if a single adjustment could improve guest and employee experiences while saving on labor costs? Sounds too good to be true until you dive into the New Steps of Service — with streamlined service that can empower guests to order and pay at the table whenever they like. It also enables your front-of-house staff to pick up a handheld POS and help bust the line on your busiest days.

Leverage granular reporting within your restaurant software

Invoice processing automation is an automated tool that digitizes critical invoice line-item data. 

Having this ingredient pricing data readily available can simplify your ability to calculate cost of goods sold (COGS), monitor price fluctuations, and take action on the COGS side of your ongoing restaurant cost breakdowns.

Just like with invoice automation for food costs, scheduling and payroll and team management tools can help automate and simplify labor cost calculations. 

You likely don’t have time to manually calculate individual payrolls — and you definitely don’t have time to add all that up to get your cumulative labor costs. An easy-to-use payroll and team management software gives you transparency and visibility into fluctuations in your weekly labor costs, tip pooling breakdowns, payroll taxes, and deductions. 

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Where to go from here

Combining Toast and xtraCHEF can help all types of restaurants access reports on daily sales, costs, and how they’re impacting profitability.

Toast Payroll and Team Management, as well as Scheduling, powered by Sling, work together to uncover valuable labor trends so you can make better decisions.

xtraCHEF by Toast empowers you to drill into line-item level detail for every ingredient on each of your supplier invoices.

Together, these tools can automate and simplify the process of creating restaurant cost breakdowns.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.