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Port of Subs moves quickly to add grilled sandwiches

Rob Sabo

After more than 35 years of a menu primarily featuring cold-cut sandwiches, Port of Subs added hot-grilled sandwiches to all but three of its 150 stores, President Mike Powell says.

Reno-based Port of Subs always has offered hot sandwiches, but they were heated in a microwave. Powell says the Port of Subs advisory board agreed to test a new procedure where hot sandwiches were grilled on a press. Tests were conducted in Boise and Palm Springs, Calif. from September to December of 2008.

“One is a cold market and the other is a hot-weather market,” Powell says. “We wanted to make sure sales from this product would be strong and successful in temperatures where it is 115 during the summer and where you have cold and snow in the winter.”

Tests initially were scheduled to run through February, but Powell says results were so encouraging the advisory board decided to roll out the product more quickly. Equipment was secured in early March and the Grillers line was introduced March 16.

“Our expectation is that sales of hot sandwiches will probably double,” Powell says.

Hot sandwiches in Port of Subs’ test markets typically accounted for 7 to 8 percent of total sales, but spiked to 15 to 30 percent with the new Grillers line.

Initial investment to roll out the new sandwich line was approximately $500,000 and included 190 grill presses provided by Resco, menu board modifications, marketing and advertising materials and employee training. Additionally, each store needed a 220-volt electrical upgrade to power the grill presses.

“This is a product that is far superior and offers far better value than what we were doing before,” Powell

says. “It is really exciting. Our franchise managers and team members all have gotten behind this, and that is the key to success.”