Over the past few days I’ve been in and out of the office, experiencing some new things and getting to know new people. In that time, I’ve made a few small observations I’d like to share and see if you feel something similar. Feel free to comment and weigh in on what’s said.
I love sandwiches (what a wild segue into the subject matter). I didn’t grow up in New York so I can’t say I’m very experienced in great delis or sandwich shops. The extent of my knowledge with sandwiches and delis is really limited to Subway, Quiznos, Jason’s Deli and Schlotzkys. When I was in Denver last year, I ate at 2 great delis (Heidi’s and Mendelsohns). One was a NY style deli and the other a similar styled sandwich shop. The food was magnificent and the options for what kind of sandwich you could have were seemingly limitless. This is much unlike the standard options in Subway or Quiznos, where you may have 15 or 20 total options, but really the cost-efficient ones are limited to 5-7 choices. Why is that? My only assumption is that with mass produced and franchised restaurants, you have to limit the number of options available to streamline the advertising and stay consistent with the product message and stuff for sale. Are there other reasons? Another question that came to mind is why aren’t there NY styled sandwich shops in Abilene? I know I could probably find one or two in Houston and Dallas. Do you have to be a larger city for a local or non-franchised deli to make it?
And on the subject of the franchise deli place, I’ve observed that Subway has the upper hand (or bread) on the market, not just in their marketing, but also in the product itself. The $5 foot-long changed the sales gimmicks of all the competitors. Now they all offer something at $5 or sometimes less. I ate at Quiznos yesterday. You can get a bullet sandwich which is a thin sub sandwich for about $4. It’s not as much food, but the price is catchy. I ate the Buffalo Chicken sandwich. Great taste, very well made and flavorful. What I didn’t get was the opportunity to add vegetables or other toppings like at Subway. Part of the $5 foot-long deal is that you can load that sandwich with extras and turn it into more than 1 meal. For this reason, I think Subway is the leader of the pack in the franchise deli market.
Another observation about restaurants is the music that places are playing now, compared to 5 years ago or less. I first noticed this while dining with my wife at Red Lobster. The music played in the background came from a set up that the corporate office subscribed to (I asked a manager to make sure). The mix included Iron & Wine, Feist, and Ray LaMontagne. There were no pop songs, no Top 40 artists. For the most part it was all indie singer-songwriters. Apparently it’s becoming more of a trend to feature this style of music in the restaurant setting as we dined this past weekend at Abuelos (a Tex-Mex chain). I expected to hear only Tejano or similar. The mix actually had a lot more indie flavor in it. So indie music is taking over the world, which means that the opportunities to be discovered by an audience and not a record label is now the more appealing prospect. This is a HUGE change to the dynamic of the music industry as well as how we appreciate musicians. Unknowns and undiscovereds are no longer left to a hope and a prayer to be able to have an audience hear their music. This is a big deal.