Submarine sandwiches are a go-to food for many people, as they’re inexpensive, quick, tasty, and can even be a healthy meal, depending on the sub. A sub shop serves submarine sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Most also have sides, beverages and other types of sandwiches, and some serve breakfast.
Learn how to start your own Sub Shop and whether it is the right fit for you.
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Start a sub shop by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Sub Shop
- Form your Sub Shop into a Legal Entity
- Register your Sub Shop for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Sub Shop
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Sub Shop
- Get Sub Shop Insurance
- Define your Sub Shop Brand
- Create your Sub Shop Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your sub shop. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Sub Shop Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a sub shop?
The startup costs associated with opening a sub shop business vary a lot. A shop may be opened for around $60,000, or it might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Here’s a breakdown on some costs associated with a shop that may cost about $60,000. Major expenses that contribute to this include:
- Purchasing inventory (about $1,500)
- Acquiring equipment (about $15,500)
- Franchise costs (about $4,000)
- Three months of lease payments (about $7,500)
- Promotional expenses (about $6,300)
- Remodeling (about $8,000)
Other smaller expenses include deposits, professional fees, cash for the cash register, licensing and permit fees, supplies and incidental expenses.
Many sub shop business owners open a franchise location. Entrepreneur has a list of 10 sandwich franchises, which cost between $84,300 and $432,800.
Business owners can reduce their startup costs some by purchasing used equipment, which is often much less expensive than comparable new equipment, and opening in a small space so that rent is kept minimal. Opening a local shop can also be cheaper than a franchise, as it eliminates any franchise fees.
What are the ongoing expenses for a sub shop?
The ongoing expenses for a sub shop business include employee wages, rent, costs for supplies and costs for ongoing promotional campaigns.
Who is the target market?
Sub shop businesses appeal to many customers. Sandwiches can be adapted to many taste preferences and health requirements, and they’re convenient, affordable meal options.
How does a sub shop make money?
A sub shop business makes money by selling submarine sandwiches, other foods and beverages to customers. Some shops also cater events.
How much can you charge customers?
Submarine sandwiches typically cost less than $10. Subway, for instance, charges between $3.75 and $5.50 for 6-inch subs, and $5.50 and $8.95 for 12-inch subs. Firehouse Subs prices many of its sandwiches between $5.49 and $9.49. (These figures don’t include special sales.)
How much profit can a sub shop make?
A sub shop’s revenue depends on how many customers it serves. Because submarine sandwiches aren’t too expensive, a shop relies on a high volume of customers to make a profit. Therefore, it’s important to be in a high traffic area so that there are lots of potential customers. Signs will help draw passersby in, as will special deals.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A sub shop can increase its revenue by upselling certain toppings that cost more, sides and beverages.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your sub shop is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a sub shop. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
In order to play music in a business setting, permission must be acquired from the composer or license holder. Typically, it is possible to obtain a “blanket” license allowing a businesses to play music owned by a large catalog of artists and recording studios. Such licenses can be obtained from Performance Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP or BMI.
Certificate of Occupancy
A sub shop is generally run out of a small retail location. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a sub shop.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your sub shop will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Protecting your logo and designs prevents competitors from stealing your art and ideas. This overview from the United States Patent and Trademark Office has all you need to know about trademark protection.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Sub Shop needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Sub Shop.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a sub shop
It’s important to offer a range of different sandwich options to appeal to people’s varying tastes. In addition to submarine sandwiches, shops may want to offer wraps or salads. These are easy to make if a place already has the supplies for sandwiches, but they have fewer carbs.
Additionally, shops should have a variety of sandwiches (and wraps or salads), such as:
- Sandwiches with meat
- Vegetable-only sandwiches
- Hot sandwiches
- Cold sandwiches
Offering a wide variety of toppings can also help a shop attract lots of different customers.
How to keep customers coming back
Some sub shop businesses have set themselves apart from others by offering special, unique sandwiches. These may be seasonal sandwiches, local favorites, ethnic sandwiches or one-of-a-kind creations.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
Anyone who likes serving people and is passionate about food might be well-suited for running a sub shop business. There’s lots of hands-on work involved in a sub shop, as sandwiches are typically assembled to order as customers request them.
Because people eat submarine sandwiches for lunch, dinner and at other times, sub shops are usually open during most of the day. Owners ought to expect to work almost every day, although some shops close for one day a week and major holidays.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a sub shop?
A sub shop business owner spends much of their time making sandwiches for customers. This involves:
- Welcoming customers into the shop and taking orders
- Assembling sandwiches per customers’ requests
- Ringing up customers on a cash register and giving them sandwiches
In between customers, supplies must be restocked and the shop has to be cleaned.
Owners can expect to place orders for more supplies, receive orders, make schedules for any employees and perform other administrative tasks at least once a week.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sub shop?
Sub shop business owners should be familiar with how to efficiently make sandwiches, as that is the main product their business sells. Sub shop owners can learn how to assemble sandwiches and familiarize themselves with the other aspects of serving customers by working in a shop for a few months.
Business owners should also be familiar with how to manage employees and workflows. Talking with other owners of sub shops is an easy and inexpensive way to learn about these parts of running the business.
What is the growth potential for a sub shop?
A sub shop business may be just one location, or it can be a national chain. Many successful shops grow to be regional, either establishing a local chain or opening multiple franchises in one area.
Should you consider joining a franchise?
Joining a sub shop franchise can be a good option for entrepreneurs who prefer to use a proven model rather than start from scratch. While joining one can mean slightly higher initial costs and less control, a quality franchise offers great benefits such as initial and ongoing support, marketing assistance, and brand recognition.
Opening a sub shop franchise typically requires $100,000-$1,500,000. Larger sub shop franchises like Subway and Jimmy John's typically cost more, while more niche favorites like Togo's often have lower startup costs.
Interested in joining a sub shop franchise? Check out our favorites.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
How and when to build a team
A small sub shop business can be run with just one person, but there is a great deal of work involved and having no employees limits a shop’s growth potential. As soon as possible, you’ll likely want to hire at least one employee. Having an employee can help increase how many customers your shop can serve during peak times, like the lunch hour, and it will let you focus on tasks that will grow the business more.
- List of 10 sandwich franchises - Shows heavily saturated market yet an ability to easily establish a well known sandwich shop
- Easy, chain sandwich shop franchises
Real World Examples
- “Why I quit my job writing to open a sandwich shop”
- Necessity for experience when opening a sandwich shop.