Ever wondered how one starts a sandwich shop? If that interests you, keep reading. I will take you through everything that happened to us.
Michael and I met at University back in 2020 while studying Economics and discovering the city of London. Tirelessly exploring what the city had to offer, we were simultaneously trying to make sense of lectures.
One aspect of London that fascinated both of us was the variety in culture, activities, nightlife, and most importantly, the food scene. Back in our respective countries, food was great, but it was traditional. With the exception of a few fine dining restaurants and a handful of international chains, the local, independent food ventures were nothing outside of the box. A sandwich shop would be a sandwich shop, serving ham and cheese sandwiches and tomato mozzarella—just the classics, well-executed, sometimes. In London, we discovered a whole culture of food innovation, creativity, and the endless pushing of boundaries that you could perceive on every street in central London. Here, we thought there was something to do, that people had the appetite for new ideas, new concepts, and new ways of living their lives.
That said, we didn’t get into food straight away. Michael went on to do a master's degree in digital economy inspired by his passion for technology, while I went straight into the events industry. A year later, we were both growing our first startups simultaneously. Michael was developing a tipping platform with a large restaurant group, while I was busy organizing branded afterparties for UHNW clients.
After a year, COVID-19 hit. The world just stopped, and funnily enough, Michael and I were flatmates at the time. What a time to be alive. As year one of the pandemic unfolded, our unemployed selves were striving to create something of meaning—something that does not ride waves, such as creating a COVID mask brand e-commerce. So here we are with our first food idea: the tech-driven Bistro. A bistro that breaks the rules, fully tech-driven with self-ordering yet a totally old-school service style, wine distributors, and messy old silver tableware. But hey, what were we thinking? We were two 22-year-olds with absolutely zero understanding of the restaurant world. That idea went straight to the bin.
Quite literally the same evening, idea number two was born: The Croque Monsieur concept, technically the first prototype of Crunch as it is today. We wanted to make affordable pressed sandwiches with high-quality ingredients. But this time, we knew that as simple as making sandwiches might look, we needed help. We decided to bring on board a consultant, and not just any consultant! One that developed food for major supermarkets, was the head of food for Sky UK, to name a few of his successful projects. So we embarked on the journey of making the best-pressed sandwich in London.
It was fun—the R&D sessions, the walking around London trying every single sandwich place to benchmark how ‘’good’’ what we were doing is. We went through everything, from conception to brand creation (funnily enough, it was already the branding that we have today), recipe development, a lot of sandwich testing, and more. However, at the end of all of this, we finally looked into the feasibility study of this whole business, and Michael and I went crazy. We thought people have gone mad. We were presented with strategy and operational suggestions which came with a price tag that is simply too ridiculous to even mention in this blog post. So we paused the project and started rethinking. Rethinking everything.
Is this unique enough? Is this homely enough? Would people buy this stuff when they can make the same at home? The simple answer was that this specific product, again, went to the bin, just like the bistro idea! However, that evening we finally felt like we were onto something. I remember it as if it was yesterday. We did not sleep till 5 AM, brainstorming a plan, making drawings for what the bread should look like, and in general, more confident than ever that sandwiches are the way forward. We just wanted to make sure that we actually focus on taste and quality, comfort, and uniqueness at first. Then the rest.
We started ordering samples from bakeries for research. We contacted every single bakery in London to send us their version of brioche bread. However, when we were trying the sandwiches, we quickly noticed that we had to make our own bread. The sauce always went everywhere—it made the bread soggy, the bread was too sweet, and just always too buttery. Just as a brioche should be, but no good for sandwiches! After countless weeks of trying, we finally came across something closer to what we envisaged. A fluffy, buttery brioche which was not too sweet, looked great, and tasted oh… So good. We were onto something.
Now that we were going somewhere, the missing piece of the puzzle was the location. Where do we open? We previously wanted to open on the high street, and make our sandwich dreams a reality, but we quickly got to the conclusion that this was not the right way for us. At this point, we knew nothing, and I really mean—nothing. So we thought of a way for us to test the product, see if you would actually like it or if it was only our fantasy driving the project. A few weeks later, we found our perfect place. A small pub located on Old Street, a vibrant area packed with trendsetters. Once we signed the place, we started getting equipment, countless trips to suppliers to try the food and understand how the system works, and to be transparent, we found it very daunting. After two weeks of setting up, we finally decided that it was time to open.
As previously mentioned, neither of us had ever worked in a commercial kitchen, and upon realising that, the real moment we were blessed by destiny happened. We went out to a nightclub in East London for a large electronic music event, and out of the 3000 people that were in the venue, we came across Joni, the bearded culinary genius that you might recognise from the Crunch Instagram.
Joni was the total opposite of us. He was a Michelin-trained chef, with tons of knowledge, and quite frankly, it felt ridiculous even talking to him about our sandwiches. Thankfully, our relationship started as much more than a give-and-take; we became friends before all, and Joni kindly accepted helping us refine the concept, make a proper killer bread recipe, and teach us how to behave in a kitchen. We couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.
Time passed by, and Joni fell in love with what he created, truly believed in the long life of Crunch, and left his fine dining career behind. A move that means the world to Michael and to me.
From that point onwards, it is history. The three of us, along with the rest of our team, embarked on a real journey and worked tirelessly to get Crunch to where it is today. That would also would not have been possible without you and the countless outside support our sandwiches have received. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and we truly hope that you enjoy reading the article on how we came about.