CLIENT SPOTLIGHT – THE SOHO SANDWICH COMPANY
Slice of Success for Sandwich Business
Producing more than eight million sandwiches annually is bread and butter for longstanding Lifeline IT client The Soho Sandwich Company.
Based in Enfield, North London, the 16-year-old company employs 150 staff. We spoke with Managing Director Dan Silverston to find out more about how they’ve adapted over the last few months.
Describe your business?
At Soho, we handcraft premium sandwiches and food-to-go daily, which is then supplied nationally. Our clients include contract caterers, NHS, retailers, independent coffee shops and leisure centres. We’ve recently started supplying to the staff at the COVID testing centres, as they are often in remote areas. Plus, we supply into offices, so if your business needs lunch for their staff, we’re the people to come to.
Challenges since the start of the pandemic?
At first, production fell off the cliff, and sales were down 75%. Gradually we have seen a slow return of business but with a much broader client base. The usual hospitality and event business is non-existent. We have had to innovate with the product ranges to cater for the new post-COVID-19 customer. Our individually packed sandwiches and heat to eat meals work well with social distancing requirements when providing for staff in any environment.
Have your ways of working changed?
Like most businesses, we’ve had more people working from home and have been reliant on technology such as Microsoft Teams. Lifeline IT did some excellent training with us on Teams, which helped us use the platform better.
In terms of our production, as we’re a food business, we already have incredibly stringent health and safety measures in place. Still, we’ve had to add to these with additional COVID secure procedures.
Main issues over the last few months?
It is not being able to plan. At first, we assumed this would be for three months, but now it’s not knowing. On some days we are back up to pre-COVID levels of production, so if some of the other sectors that we supply to, such as universities and the events industry, start to open up then we will need to scale-up.
Keeping in touch with all the staff working remotely to make sure they are feeling connected and coping with lockdown, especially those who were furloughed at the start of the pandemic, has been a new challenge.
Advice to other businesses?
Businesses are concerned about cash flow, and the one piece of advice I’d give is if you’re worried about paying bills such as tax, VAT, rent etc., speak to HMRC or the relevant supplier to talk about staggered payment. They would much rather the business survive than go under.
Now is also the time to think about simplifying your product offer – lots of restaurants and cafes now have reduced menus in response to the changes, so consider it as an option.
And finally, a favourite sandwich?
I have a few! It is always the classics for me. Our Classic BLT is excellent, packed full of tasty beechwood smoked bacon. I love our tuna mayo, and we make one with sweetcorn and cucumber, so you don’t have to choose between the two! We brought out a fantastic hot sandwich at Christmas, a mushroom and truffle sourdough toastie, which then remained on the menu as it was so popular (I lobbied hard for that one). But I generally try to steer clear of too much bread; luckily, we have some great salads and superfood pots that help with that.
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