Sandwich Baron franchise continues to grow despite SA’s declining economy

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Sandwich Baron has grown from one to 47 stores within two decades, with stores in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and Western Cape, and is especially popular for breakfast and lunch trade among working folk and students.

This at a time when, according to First National Bank, franchising in South Africa has grown at a rate of between 5% and 7% annually, especially in the fast-food industry. Steady, but hardly the remarkable growth of 10 % that Sandwich Baron has achieved over the past financial year.

Founder and head of the Sandwich Baron franchise, Sally J’Arlette-Joy, explains how she grew her business from a capital investment of only R5,000 into a household-name franchise.

Working in London as a DJ, J’Arlette-Joy noticed the popularity of sandwich shops in the British capital, and saw a gap in the local market to turn the humble sandwich into a flourishing business.

Based on her own experience, her first advice to aspiring franchisors is, “You need to have tough skin in this game”. She put her own skin on the line when in 1996, she opened a small sandwich shop run from her home in Alberton, near Johannesburg. 20 years on, the business has grown to 47 outlets, of which five are company owned, ensuring J’Arlette-Joy continues to stays in touch with the consumers wants and needs. She also manages the entire group.

Her first sandwich fillings on the menu 20 years ago were very simple. “The menu had 10 basic sandwiches to choose from such as cheese and tomato, beef-, egg- or tuna salad, chicken mayonnaise, and beef and mustard. Since those early days the menu has evolved according to customer demand and preference.”

The business caught on quickly, and J’Arlette-Joy recognised she was onto something successful. She set about formalising what is today known as Sandwich Baron, and opened up a store – and soon received her first enquiry about a franchise.

She chuckles and says that she learned the intricacies of the business and franchising through the University of Hard Knocks. “There is no school that teaches you how to become a franchisor, and I didn’t have the funds to pay for the sort of consulting I probably needed. I read it up and learned as I went along. In my early years, I had my father to bounce ideas off, so positive mentoring was a great help.” She expanded the business incrementally by reinvesting income year after year.

Things are a bit different today, she explains, as the Franchising Association of Southern Africa (FASA) is a great resource and she has acquired great input from them.

She recommends aspiring franchisees take the same cautious approach to establishing a business, recommending they carry on working on a part time basis until they are sure they can make it work. This is because in South Africa, before you are eligible for start-up funding from venture capitalists and banks, you need to invest at least 50% of the capital amount from your own pocket.

Despite this, she recommends franchisees research potential funders, “because once you know their requirements, you can work towards it and save accordingly”. However, she believes capital is less an obstacle to success as passion for the fast food business.

Changes in the menu and business model, she says, come from identifying what customers want rather than keeping an eye on competitors’ offering. The latter is an aspect she wastes little time on. “What makes us unique is quality and taste. Everything is made on order. Pre-made sandwiches can be made to look appealing, but the taste suffers in the process,” she explains.

From an early stage, she’d realised that franchising was the ideal means to grow the business, as its building blocks are cemented with the successes of other aspiring business owners. It is a two-way relationship. “Although every franchise business comes with a tried and tested business model and practices, healthy relationships are the core to success and come only through continuous work and collaboration.

“Sandwiches have always been considered a staple meal, so I am confident that with the help of my dedicated franchisees, Sandwich Baron will continue to grow from strength to strength and will be around for many years to come,” concludes J’Arlette-Joy.

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