The $5 independent-business lunch dilemma

It’s lunchtime (for entrepreneurs, that could mean anytime between noon and 6 pm.) You’ve got $5 for food and drink, whether it’s all you got or all you want to spend. Why is it that the only choices are either unhealthy or chains? McD’s, Subway… What if you wanted to support your fellow entrepreneur, that independent sandwich shop down the street, but the bill always totals over $7? Surely there’s a no-frills chic answer.

Why does this matter? Because cities need entrepreneurs to create jobs, and entrepreneurs are putting all their money into their businesses with little left for >$5 lunches every single day, much less >$10 dinners, and peanut butter sandwiches get old after a while. They need something like…

…an independent version of England’s Pret a Manger – alas a chain, but an example (an evil one some say) of a small corner store offering healthy, fresh, quick and very inexpensive sandwiches, salads and the like, stacked as tightly as the cans of soup in your supermarket. Where will such a high-quality, volume-based idea work? Well, in urban areas with a large concentration of pedestrians, which is why you’ll only find these in London and NYC to date.

Here’s a posting to accelerate some independent merchants to open their own, and for cities to support them in the downtown – there’s a lot of starving entrepreneurs out there, and a lot of jobs to be created.

  • sarah

    i live in london. pret are a chain in every bad sense of the word.
    the source their food from all over the world.
    they price cut out local sandwhich shops.
    they pay a standard minimum wage (not a local living wage).
    they have huge suburban factories where non-skilled labor make sandwiches.
    (fresh i grant).
    they produce enormous amounts of packaging waste – everything’s plastic wrapped several times.

    pay the extra! or skip on the fizzy drink! support your local sandwich shops/corner stores! it’s hilarious to think you can get good quality food that supports your local economic area without paying a bit more.

    they’re cheap because they mass produce and can demand cheaper from suppliers.

  • Thanks Sarah – that’s definitely reason enough for me to go elsewhere, and I wholeheartedly agree about skipping out on the bottled drinks and bringing your own – you can save a lot that way.

    Still, the challenge is to bridge the gap between the $1 sandwich you make yourself and the $6 ones at the independents. Chains have got that $3-4 market all to themselves, and there’s no reason why independents can’t offer simpler, pre-prepared versions of their sandwiches in greater quantities for people to grab at near the same price. In fact, in Hawaii, the ‘mom & pops’ have these mini-boxed lunches that often sell for less than $5 called bentos that are just that, though these are much more than mere sandwiches.

  • Michael

    Last time I was down in Berkeley I spotted this place called Smart Alecs (I think, this was a long time ago). I’ve been thinking about it ever since, because it was essentially an independent, healthy fast food chain with affordable prices (the elusive Last time I was down in Berkeley I spotted this place called Smart Alecs (I think, this was a long time ago). I’ve been thinking about it ever since, because it was essentially an independent, healthy fast food joint with affordable prices (the elusive