For quick convenient food purchases, Americans rely on delicatessens (delis), sandwich shops and convenience stores. One thing all these retail categories have in common is quick service and long opening hours.
Delicatessens make sandwiches to order and offer prepared foods and drinks ready to heat and serve, sometimes served on premises, typically in an alcove with a few small tables, often using disposable plates, and plastic cutlery. Delis also sell cold cuts, cheese, various types of salads and coleslaw by the pound for takeout. In many supermarkets, deli departments do exactly the same thing.
Delicatessens often have hot food and “salad bars.” You will take a plastic container, fill it with whatever food appeals to you, and then you pay by the pound. The deli will sell you a soda or juice, and give you a paper napkin and a plastic fork. You can then consume the food at home, in your car, on a park bench, or sometimes at a table right on premises.
Convenience stores, which often combine with gasoline stations, sell a limited range of convenience foods, including pre-packaged sandwiches, sodas, and snacks. You will often pay a premium for the convenience. The 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores, with more than 5000 outlets, is the largest in the United States.
Sandwich shops, including chains like Subway and Quizno’s, deal mainly with sandwiches, made to order, usually offering several dozen varieties, for on or off-premise consumption, in addition to sodas, coffee and other beverages. Some newer sandwich shops specialize in “wraps” and “Panini.”
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