The owners at one of London’s best gourmet sandwich purveyors have told Eater London that their response to rising energy bills and customer uncertainty in a cost-of-living crisis will be to reduce prices across the board by 40 percent next week.
Sons and Daughters’s James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy said that from Monday 28 November all sandwiches will be priced at £6.50, instead of £11. Exceptions will be made for seasonal specials, such as the upcoming Christmas sandwich.
“We reached the conclusion that in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, and at the start of a probably very long recession, charging £11 for a sandwich didn’t feel quite right,” Ramsden said this seek. “So as of next week we’ll be doing all our sandwiches on a lovely crusty roll at £6.50. Seemed far preferable to just getting shittier ingredients.”
The shop first opened in late summer 2019, with a lean menu of hench sandwiches, including merguez sausage and french fries; roast chicken with soy-cured Parmesan and lettuce; a prawn mayo, which cleverly features prawn crackers and a ginger and jalapeno vinaigrette. In September this year, Sons and Daughters opened a second outpost, in the iconic Borough Market. The duo is also behind Hackney neighbourhood restaurant Pidgin.
Ahead of the price drop — which matches a reduction in the size of the sandwich — Eater spoke to Ramsden to gain more insight into how hard running a hospitality business is during this latest crisis, why they’ve opted for this course now, and how they think the next six months may play out.
Can you give us an overview of the increase in costs?
It’s not so much the increase in our costs as in everyone’s costs that has inspired this change. Everything has gone bonkers. And sure, things at our end have gone up — energy in Kings Cross was £6,000 this September against £1,200 last September, for example; pretty much all ingredients have gone up in price on two or three occasions this year alone. Some suppliers have done their very best to hold the line but we’re all in the same rickety Brexit-addled, Putin riddled row boat. The majority of people are just trying to get by in incredibly tough times, fundamentally given everybody’s situation it doesn’t feel right to us to charge £11 for a sandwich. However awesome said sandwich might be. As it stands we’re already struggling to make a margin on that uncomfortable price. When costs go up again, as they surely will, we wouldn’t have had much of a choice but to up the price again. Bad for the customer and bad for us.
Can you talk through the specific details of the price reduction.
We’re keen on making things simple. All of our sandwiches will be £6.50 (save for certain specials, like the Christmas special), and all will be served on a very good white roll.
Why have you done this?
Generosity and abundance was always kind of central to what we did at S+D but there came a point when we just felt like £11 was a lot to ask of people, however big the sandwich. It’s a lot, however you slice the loaf. We never wanted to be a super exclusive place, and through the constant price rises we’ve somehow become that. We became more and more aware of even big fans of our sandwiches saying they were almost too big. We want S+D to be a regular lunch spot for people, not an occasional treat that possibly necessitates a nap afterwards. We used to make the ‘nap-time required’ joke all the time, and now it just doesn’t seem very funny. We’re also working hard to be as sustainable as possible. If a number of our customers can’t finish their sandwich then we’re contributing to the problem of food waste. The world is on fire quite enough without us adding to the flames.
And why how?
If not now, when? We’d rather try and be proactive, keep customers and our team happy, and make a change rather than make (valid but tricky) excuses for a price point that makes us feel like we’re a ways away from what we were trying to do when we started.
What was the final straw?
The moment we realised how almost the majority of positive comments about our sandwiches came with the caveat that they either were quite expensive, challengingly big or quite possibly both.
Have you noticed sales drop?
There’s definitely a sense of people being more cautious with their money. We really just didn’t enjoy seeing people get put off by the price. There’s only so many times you can say ‘but they’re huge! We use a proper butcher and baker and our eggs are beautiful! Obviously we’re aware that £6.50 is still above your average high street sandwich shop but we’ve gone as low as we can while maintaining the quality of ingredients. We’re making zero changes whatsoever to our ingredient provenance or our recipes, we’re just making the sandwiches a little smaller and the price a lot smaller.
How do you see the future playing out in hospitality over the next 6 months?
Probably a buckle in and hang on for dear life sort of scenario beckoning.
Do you think more could be done at a policy level to help businesses and their employees?
Of course. Cuts in VAT rates for hospitality and a sensible and straightforward visa scheme for migrant workers would be a start. And for a truly lovely Christmas present, get a government in who aren’t venal morons and kick that evil, pathetic bare chested horse rider the hell out of Ukraine.