Wall Street Deli
Wall Street Deli (formerly Stand N' Snack, Burger Chef and Sandwich Chef) is a fast food restaurant chain founded by Alan Kaufman. Before it was reorganized in 2002 the chain was headquartered at One Independence Plaza in Birmingham.
Kaufman opened his first Stand N' Snack location in 1967 with the idea of building a major chain. Instead of competing for automobile traffic he planned locations in the lobbies of medium-sized and large office buildings, hoping to capture busy businesspersons needing a quick lunch. By 1970 the chain had 12 locations in the Birmingham area.
Under the revised name of "Sandwich Chef", the model was successful and spread by 1982 to 212 company-owned locations all over the country. The oil crunch of the early 1980s, however, cut sharply into the company's many Texas and Gulf Coast locations. A few stores closed and profits dwindled at others. By the end of the decade the chain still claimed 189 locations, but was operating at a loss. The stores themselves were beginning to look dingy and outdated with their brown and orange fixtures and flat fluorescent lighting. Kaufman and fellow executive Robert Barrow planned to upgrade the chains image under a new name.
In 1985 R. C. Cooper Deli debuted in the largest office buildings (500,000+ square feet) and replaced many of the existing Sandwich Chefs. In 1987 the polished Wall Street Deli began to open in shopping mall food courts. Wall Street's menu was expanded with a larger salad bar, fresh-baked breads and potatoes, bigger signature sandwiches, soups and even pasta bars. In 1989 there were 61 stores still operating as Sandwich Chef, 59 R. C. Cooper Delis and 12 Wall Street Deli locations. A handful of other outlets, operating as Fast Stop and LaPrima were also owned by the company. The Sandwich Chef locations averaged $146,500 in sales while R. C. Cooper Delis averaged $304,000 and Wall Street Delis averaged $440,000. In 1990 the company decided to discontinue operating under the Sandwich Chef banner, selling off the smaller locations and making plans to open new Wall Street Delis in office building lobbies, expanding the newer concept into Georgia and Florida. In 1993 there were still 12 Sandwich Chefs in operation, 64 R. C. Cooper Delis and 43 Wall Street Delis. The average yearly sales at the flagship Wall Street Deli locations had grown to between $600,000 and $1 million.
1995 marked a critical year for the growing company as 11 underperforming locations were closed, the company's commissary system was discontinued and Kaufman suffered a heart attack. He stepped down as president and CEO, succeeded by Barrow. The vendor-based distribution system presented logistics problems that checked growth for the remainder of the decade. The company sold off all of its underperforming stores in Memphis in 1996. A franchise program was begun in 1997, along with new "Street Wrap" tortilla-wrapped sandwiches, but profitability continued to suffer. Where the company had taken in over $68 million in revenues in 1995, that figure had declined to $58 million by 1999.
In 1998 Kaufman's son Jeffrey became president and CEO. Throughout the next year negotiations were held with two potential buyers for the chain. No sale was completed and the company's leadership turned back toward the challenges of returning the chain to profitibility with a new vice president for operations and chief financial officer.
The business filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001. It was reorganized as WSDS, Inc. in 2002 and downsized to 20 locations. Since 2007 the business had been owned by TruFoods, LLC of New York. TruFoods has made plans to reinvigorate the brand with kiosk locations in busy business centers and airports. Alan Kaufman, now the golf coach at UAB, still owns franchise locations of Wall Street Deli at the Regions-Harbert Plaza, Kirklin Clinic and Baptist Medical Center Princeton.
- Seligman, Bob (January 15, 1990) "A Sandwich Chef by Any Other Name." Nation's Restaurant News
- Hayes, Jack (October 19, 1992) "Sandwich Chef Chain Converts to `Upscale' Wall Street Deli." Nation's Restaurant News
- Williams, Roy L. (June 28, 2009) "You have to know where the people are". The Birmingham News
- Wall Street Deli website