Sandwich heirs carry on the family tradition

The Earl of Sandwich has opened a sandwich shop in London, 250 years after his ancestor, the Fourth Earl, is said to have invented the snack in his quest for something convenient to eat while he gambled.

The current Earl, John Montagu, has opened the store with his son Orlando. They denied the outlets were a "Pret killer", saying they had waited until now because they wanted to ensure their food matched their name. "I approached my father with the idea when I left school," said Orlando Montagu, adding that he was told to "go and get a proper job and an education".

However, eight years later, in 2004, the younger Montagu, along with his business partner Robert Earl, convinced the 11th Earl of Sandwich that a chain of US stores bearing the family name and selling the product for which it is famed would be a good idea. And, after making a success of that venture, as well as a delivery service in the UK, the trio have decided to set up a store in London.

While many of its competitors serve cold snacks, Earl of Sandwich will offer hot sandwiches, the owners say. They say the bread will be baked and the meats cooked in front of the customer, in a process they claim will take only 90 seconds. Their flagship snack is "The Original 1762", a sandwich filled with hot roast beef, cheddar and horseradish sauce. Most of the sandwiches will cost around £3.95.

"The name is one of the most valuable assets we have and it is important that the food lives up to what people will expect from the brand," Orlando Montagu said yesterday.

He said the family had been put off by the "crazy rents" being paid in London by competitors such as Pret a Manger and Starbucks.

"We were doing well in America and we did not want to make the same mistakes in two different places so we bided our time. The timing feels right now," he said.