The owner behind campus’ quirky sandwich shop
October 13, 2021
Ayden Alwani is the owner of Fat Sandwich, a restaurant that has been in operation since 2008. Fat Sandwich is known for their sandwiches which are filled with a variety of fried foods. The restaurant is located at 502 E. John St., Champaign. Fat Sandwich is popular on campus due to its late night closing at 3 a.m., and its presence as a fast food staple.
What’s your role in the operation of Fat Sandwich?
I am the owner of the restaurant, and I do pretty much everything around my store, including most of the organization and operations during the less busy hours. We have people on weekends that come in late night when there is more business. Usually, it gets busy on weekends when there is some sort of game going on.
What sort of people usually come to Fat Sandwich?
Most of our customers come in late during the night, and most of them are involved in some fraternity or sorority. We have a lot of Greek (life) customers, probably more than every other type of person that walks in our doors…Most of our customers come here by word of mouth, and we regularly have groups of 10 to 20 customers that show up in a big group coming to order either late or after some event.
What does a usual business day look like for you?
We open at 11 a.m. in the mornings, but deliveries and opening usually takes up around an hour and a half before opening. We take in deliveries by truck and unloading and getting everything cleaned and set up takes a lot of time. A lot of the work is getting the kitchen cleaned and setting up the seating, since it tends to get rearranged after every night.
Now that you mention cleaning, there’s always a Fat Sandwich smell that comes. Do you have the same thing happen to you?
(Laughing) Yeah, I have a separate wardrobe for my work clothes. After coming here day in and day out, I don’t notice it as much, but whenever I go home, I shower and take off all of my work clothes and get changed. It’s all of the oil from the frying that we do so much of here that sinks into your stuff. A lot of the regulars don’t mind and like the smell actually since it reminds them of our place.
Speaking of regulars, what sort of orders do people usually get here?
Honestly, there is a big split between male and female customers for their orders. Men usually get the Magnum and Illini, and (with) women they order the Chief and Illini the most. Every once in a while, people will try the Big Fat Ugly Challenge, which is when you have to finish our biggest sandwich in 15 minutes. I’ll let you read the ingredients on the menu there, but it’s a lot of food. I’ve seen plenty of people try the challenge, but the people that usually do it are athletes or generally fit people. A lot of people try it but most people fail, I’ve seen maybe 100 people do it in the years I’ve been here.