How to Open a Panini Stand

Panini sandwich on a wood surface.
Panini sandwich on a wood surface. (Image: badmanproduction/iStock/Getty Images)

Paninis started in Italy, where café guests would nibble on their flavorful grilled sandwiches at lunch or tuck the savory snacks into picnic baskets for afternoon outings. Because the pressed sandwiches are compact and neatly presented -- as compared with submarine sandwiches dripping with messy toppings and dressings -- the panini stand is an ideal business platform for selling on-the-go meals to customers. Although your stand won’t resemble a traditional brick-and-mortar business, you’ll still need to adhere to conventional government regulations and guidelines for opening shop.

Perfect your panini recipe. Panini sandwiches call for simple ingredients, so there’s not a lot of wiggle room for mistakes. Rely on quality sourdough, focacia and ciabatta bread; these traditional breads are hardy enough to contain ingredients and withstand pressing. Common fillers include cured meats, smoked vegetables, cheese and dressings such as pesto, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Classic panini are made with only four or five flavor combinations to avoid overwhelming the palate, but you can include a few gourmet recipes to satisfy foodie customers.

Apply for government permits and licenses. You’ll need a business license, Tax Identification Number and food permit. If your panini stand will be mobile -- for example, housed within a food truck or van -- be sure to purchase appropriate automobile insurance. You may need to submit plans for addressing rubbish resulting from customer panini purchases, or for safely disposing of hot oil and grease.

Purchase goods for making and selling commercial panini. You’ll need refrigerators, a grilling press, cutting boards, sandwich paper for wrapping purchases and squeeze bottles for dressings. Signage, a cash register and a posted menu will be needed. Since some customers may be hesitant to purchase food from an outdoor stand, clearly post your health inspection rating.

Market your panini stand by offering a tray of free samples. Don’t offer a free panini to every customer; cut different flavored sandwiches into bite-sized pieces so that customers can sample several varieties. Pass out flyers to local corporate offices to encourage employees to drop by on their lunch breaks. Create punchcards to encourage repeat visitors; customers can receive their tenth panini sandwich or free after purchasing nine panini, for example.

Boost business by offering add-ons, including bottled water, soft drinks, potato chips and individual-sized servings of ice cream or gelato. If your permit allows, scatter a few casual tables and chairs so that guests can rest for a moment while enjoying their sandwich.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some guests may prefer cold sandwiches, especially on hot days. Pre-make grilled sandwiches containing salami, pepperoni, peppers and sliced cheese. Wrap these for storage in a cooler until needed.

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