How to Open a Deli: 5 Things to Do Before You Open Your Doors

If you want to learn how to open a deli, follow these key steps to establish your brand and get the tools you need to serve customers great food and experiences. 

Food trends come and go, but the classic sandwich stands the test of time. Delis and sandwich shops continue to be popular with customers because they provide versatile, quick dining options. Customers can customize orders, choose between hot and cold food, and easily request accommodations for their food intolerances. That is why delis are popular in business districts and residential areas alike. 

If you are considering tapping into the popularity of delis and sandwich shops, here are a few things you should do before you open your doors.  

1. Identify Your Target Market

Delis come in different shapes and sizes, which means you need to know what makes your business unique. Start by identifying who your ideal customer is. A few examples of key deli customers include:

  • Workers looking to grab lunch quickly without sacrificing the quality of the meal.
  • Office interns and assistants who pick up lunch for the team.
  • Busy parents picking up groceries for the week.  
  • Diners who want to sit and eat at your deli with friends. 
  • Organizations and individuals looking for catering services. 

Identifying your target audience will help you build your deli. If you want to offer catering and meals for office workers, you might focus on online ordering and large-scale production. If you want people to sit and enjoy their meals, you may set up additional seating options. 

Look at the area where you plan to open your deli. Is it near a business park? Is it in a predominantly residential area? This information can drive your business plan. 

2. Source Vendors and Set Up Inventory Tracking

Quality ingredients can set your deli apart from similar businesses in the area. As you meet with different food distribution companies, consider what products you want to carry and how you will track them. A few questions to ask include:

  • Will you carry local products – and which brands will you buy from? 
  • Will your deli carry rare or unique items that can’t be found across town?
  • How do your products reflect your branding and business goals?
  • Which products do you expect to be the most popular?
  • Which products will have the highest profit margins? The lowest? 

If you are sourcing ingredients and products from multiple vendors, consider investing in inventory management software. Software for restaurant inventory management can alert you when you are running low on items so you can restock quickly. It can prevent overbuying while highlighting in-demand items.  

Related: The Essential Guide to Restaurant Inventory Management Software

3. Set Up a POS System 

When people consider how to open a deli, they often picture eager entrepreneurs tasting ingredients and planning store layouts. However, the process is often more technical. The business infrastructure you invest in can help you launch your business smoothly.

One technological element to focus on is your point-of-sale (POS) system. A restaurant POS system helps you process payments and manage details of your business from inventory tracking to employee scheduling to creating reports on best-selling items. 

At Lavu, we developed a deli POS system specifically for sandwich shops. The iPad-enabled POS has deli-specific features, including a sandwich creator for easy ordering and a bluetooth food scale so you can calculate pricing as you measure ingredients.  

Related: 8 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Restaurant POS System

4. Train Your Employees

Whether you are staffing a full restaurant with front and back-of-house team members or running your deli with a single assistant, you need to spend time training them. They should be aware of the processes you have in place and your expectations for their work. A few key elements to train your team include:

  • Food safety and sanitary practices to follow health guidelines
  • Customer service expectations
  • Food preparation for specific items
  • Inventory tracking
  • Basic employee processes, like clocking in and out

One of the best ways to limit the amount of training you need to do is to have multiple systems combined into one. For example, Lavu offers employee time management tools along with its other services. This way, your team members don’t need onboarding for several different systems. 

Learn More: How to Train Strong Entry Level Food Service Employees

5. Create a Marketing Plan

There are two key areas to consider when marketing your deli: your opening and your long-term growth goals. When you first open, you want to drum up buzz and attract a lot of customers. Many people will be eager to try your deli at least once to see what you are all about. However, it’s never too early to think about bringing customers back. A few options for marketing your deli to repeat customers include:

  • Establishing a loyalty program that rewards frequent diners
  • Creating monthly specials with unique, limited-time flavors
  • Set up lunch packages and combo meals that upsell items while promoting a good deal 
  • Establishing a catering menu that you can give to business professionals who need to feed their teams

You can build out your own marketing plans or you can work with an agency or freelance professional to promote your business for you. A healthy restaurant has a mixture of new customers and repeat diners each month. 

Related: PR for Restaurants: Top Tips and Tricks to use Public Relations to Drive Restaurant Growth

How to Open a Deli with Lavu Restaurant Management Solutions 

At Lavu, we aren’t just a technology company, we are a hospitality company. We continue to expand the tools and options in our software systems and currently offer more than 200 features in our POS system alone. Our goal is to make it easy for your deli to establish processes so you can focus on making amazing food.

To learn more about how to open a deli, check out our free ebook How to Build a Restaurant Business Plan. It will give you even more tips to help you go through the process of opening your new business venture. And, if you are ready to see how Lavu solutions can work in your new deli, schedule a demo with our team today.

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