British Sandwich Week – The Supply Chain of a Sandwich

Posted on May 9th, 2017 by

To celebrate British Sandwich week we thought we would take the opportunity to discover more about this humble lunch staple, and how it can be used to demonstrate the various elements of the supply chain.

The sandwich industry is ever growing, and according to The British Sandwich Week Website, currently contributes over £7.85 billion  to the UK economy – around £4.4 billion in the food to go sector.

The sandwich came about thanks to John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who requested 2 slices of bread and some meat to be bought to him from his servant, as he didn’t want to leave his gambling table to have his supper.

Since then, the sandwich has grown in popularity –

  • In Britain, we devour over 11.5 billion sandwiches a year.  If these sandwiches were laid end to end, they would go around the world 44 times!
  • More than half of the 11.5 billion sandwiches were made and eaten in our own home.
  • Around 57% of commercially bought sandwiches are made with traditional square bread.
  • More than 3.5 billion sandwiches are bought from UK retail or catering outlets each year, for which we have paid over £7.85 billion, the equivalent of 36,500 brand new Ferrari’s!
  • The biggest sandwich retailer in the UK when taking into account monetary earnings is Subway. Tesco outsells them in terms of the number of actual sandwiches sold.
  • Over 300,000 people in the UK are employed by the sandwich industry.

So, how do we apply sandwiches to how a supply chain works?

Requirements and Process

Firstly, lets look at what sandwich you are making and what products you need.

For a bacon and cheese sandwich, our initial requirements per sandwich are –

  • 2 x slices of bread
  • 4 x rashers of bacon
  • 1 x slice of cheese
bread bacon cheese

It is then necessary to run through the process to make the sandwich and then how long each point in the process will take –

  1. Lie slices of bread (x2) on plate (10 seconds per slice) = 20 seconds
  2. Fry bacon – 4 slices = 5 mins
  3. Put cheese slice on bread (10 seconds x 1) = 10 seconds
  4. Lie bacon one slice of bread and then put the other slice on top = 10 seconds

Total time = 5 minutes 40 seconds.  In essence, this is your production time where the final destination is delivery to your end customer.


To look at the demand, let’s say that you have are planning to go out with a couple of friends on a Saturday night, they are staying at your house over night and would like a bacon sandwich each for the next Sunday – can your inventory satisfy their demand?

Manufacturers and Retailers

Manufacturers & Customers


Managing Logistics

Logistics is managing your flow of goods, so here the logistics you are managing is ensuring you have enough petrol in your car and time to go to the supermarket should you need to replenish your bacon, bread or cheese.

You could buy your bacon elsewhere at a cheaper price but if it is delivered to your doorstep then the freight cost of having it bought to you could potentially offset the cheaper price of the product. This is an area that requires careful consideration in terms of your supply chain.


In this scenario you have two “warehouses” – the fridge where the bacon and cheese is kept is your climate control, and then the counter-top where your bread is.

To fully optimize your operation, you could gather all the ingredients into your sandwich assembly area to create a continuous workflow, however, as you are dealing with perishable items you need to acknowledge this factor and only gather the ingredients shortly before work is due to begin.

Picture of an open fridge and a kitchen counter top with bread board and bread.

What happens if demand outweighs the supply?

Continuing on the sandwich theme, what happens if someone pops round on Saturday afternoon and fancies a bacon sandwich?
You had 9 slices of bread left, which was fine when you were only catering for 3 people on Sunday morning, and therefore would only need 6, but someone wants a sandwich now, bringing your slices down to 7. You need to decide if this is your re-stocking point and you need to pop to the supermarket for another loaf, or if it will be OK.

What then if you also fancied a sandwich?

This would bring your slices down to 5, which will mean you are not in a position to fulfill your order on Sunday morning. Your nearest Supermarket is 15 minutes away, but due to time constraints you opt to pop to the local corner shop, a 5 minute walk away. You can replenish your stock quickly, but the bread at the local corner shop costs more than the loaf you could’ve got at the supermarket.

Who knew that making a simple bacon sandwich could be so complex and bring to life supply chain principles!

If any of the above sounds too complicated then maybe you could just order some sandwiches in on a Sunday morning! This option also brings with it more challenges and areas for potential issues – along with increased costs – what happens if the delivery is late or doesn’t turn up?

To see if we can help you simplify your supply chain get in touch today! Just fill in this form and let us know when you’re available.