Making and Selling Sandwiches


From The Guardian:

A young economics graduate named Roger Whiteside was in charge of the M&S sandwich department by then. As a young buyer, Whiteside had come up with the idea of a set of four peeled oranges, to save customers time. He had read that apartments were being built in New York without kitchens, and he had a sense of where things were going. “Once you are time-strapped and you have got cash, the first thing you do is get food made for you,” he told me. “Who is going to cook unless you are a hobbyist?”

In the sandwich department, he commissioned new prototypes every week, and devised an ultimately impractical scheme to bake baguettes in west London each morning and deliver them, still crusty, to stores around the capital. Baguettes go soft when they are refrigerated – one of a surprising number of technical challenges posed by sandwiches. Whiteside immersed himself in questions of “carriers” (bread), “barriers” (butter, mayonnaise), “inclusions” (things within the bread), “proteins” (tuna, chicken, bacon) until they bordered on the philosophical. “What is more important, the carrier or the filling?” he wondered. “How many tiers of price do you offer in prawn? How much stimulation do people need?”

In the early 90s, Whiteside developed M&S’s first dedicated “food to go” section, with its own tills and checkouts, in Manchester. The innovation prefigured the layout of most contemporary supermarkets, and was fabulously successful. But it wasn’t successful enough for Whiteside. He didn’t understand why absolutely everyone in Manchester city centre wasn’t coming in to M&S for their lunch.

“How the sandwich consumed Britain”, Sam Knight, The Guardian