Sandwich Trends

Sandwiched In: What’s Spread Between Breads?

People in the United States eat an estimated 300 million sandwiches every day — on average, about one a day for every American. In restaurants, sandwiches are menued more frequently than any other type of entrée. (In fact, if hamburgers are included, sandwiches account for nearly half of all limited-service restaurant sales.)

Today’s consumers are laser-focused on saving money and time. They demand filling fare, low prices and portable, handheld foods. They want customizable, made-to-order meals featuring fresh, new, interesting ingredients. Clearly, there’s potential for restaurateurs to sell even more sandwiches — but only if they can offer on-trend, delicious, palate-tickling flavor and texture combinations at a competitive cost. Happily, sandwiches can be positioned for any consumer’s budget — from dollar-menu minis to impressive creations at $10 and up — and can be adapted to almost any emerging culinary trend, whether it’s an increased interest in ethnic flavor profiles, high-quality gourmet presentations, local ingredients or healthy alternatives.

To get you started thinking about sandwich innovation, consider the key trends around the country:

Melty cheesiness

Hot sandwiches with melted cheese — with or without meat — are the quintessential comfort food, so it’s no wonder the category surges in troubling times like these. Friendly’s just added four new sandwiches to its SuperMelt line: Pastrami & Swiss, Crispy Chicken Cordon Bleu, Southwest Turkey and a Vermont Cheddar breakfast sandwich. Jack in the Box expanded its grilled sandwich line with a Bourbon Barbecue Steak sandwich, featuring hot steak strips, grilled onions, melting cheese and bourbon barbecue sauce served on grilled artisan bread. And Caribou Coffee rolled out Grown-Up Grilled Cheese sandwiches systemwide; varieties offered include Three Cheese Classic, Gouda Turkey Pesto, Aged Cheddar Roast and Italian Chicken Melt

Chicken beefs up

Call it burger fatigue — hearty, complex, flavorful chicken sandwiches are popping up everywhere. Fuddruckers, the fast-casual burger chain, branched out with new chicken sandwiches served with balsamic greens on Italian hoagie buns: the Chicken Cordon Bleu, crispy chicken topped with sliced ham and Swiss cheese, and the Caprese, combining grilled ranch-seasoned chicken breast, basil pesto mayonnaise, mozzarella and roasted tomato slices. In a similar vein, Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen rolled out a new line of customizable chicken sandwiches: the Spicy Bayou with rèmoulade and crispy onion straws, the Bacon Ranch with ranch sauce and bacon, and the Southwestern with zesty Baja sauce and pico de gallo. (Traditionalists can order the same sandwiches with cod.)

Philadelphia treats

Starring the classic beef or less conventional chicken, the Philly cheesesteak is one iteration of the meat-and-melted-cheese sandwich garnering devoted new fans around the country. Johnny Rockets rolled out a Chicken Philly Cheese Steak sandwich, featuring sliced, grilled, all-white-meat chicken, grilled onions and choice of cheese on a hoagie roll. Quaker Steak & Lube celebrated the City of Brotherly Love with a pair of Phillies: the BBQ O-Ring Cheesesteak, thinly shaved sirloin sautéed with smoky barbecue sauce, breaded onion rings and cheddar-jack cheese, and the Pick-Up Philly, thinly sliced sirloin sautéed with ranch sauce, fried dill pickle spears and melted Swiss.

Pork pulls its weight

Pulled pork sandwiches are another regional comfort-food trend. Quiznos introduced not one, but two: Southern BBQ Pulled Pork, featuring slow-roasted shredded pork, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, pickles, yellow mustard and smoky barbecue sauce, and Cuban Pork, slow-roasted and shredded pork served with sliced ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, yellow mustard and mayonnaise. At Straw, an independent full-service restaurant in San Francisco, the evocatively named Bearded Lady sandwich combines pulled pork, blackberry coulis and chipotle barbecue sauce.

Wrapping it up nicely

The idea of what constitutes a “sandwich” has expanded as more restaurants introduce wraps as an alternative to the between-two-slices-of-bread format. Togo’s Sandwiches introduced new toasted wraps: Chi Cha Chicken, with chicken, black bean and corn salsa, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese and spicy pepitas dressing on a sun-dried tomato wrap, and the Viva Veggie, with hummus, roasted red pepper, feta cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and balsamic vinaigrette on a spinach wrap. San Francisco Oven rolled out a wrap of Zinfandel chicken and chopped chicken with pecans. Fazoli’s even experimented with pasta wraps, packaging Spaghetti and Meatball, Chicken Florentine Alfredo, and Sausage and Pepper Penne versions for portability. Boston Market and Burger King, among others, are currently testing wraps.

US Foods can fill all your sandwich needs

Sandwiches are one menu category in which the quality of the ingredients is all-important. Research confirms that consumers increasingly demand the best in meats, cheeses, breads, condiments and garnishes. Fortunately, US Foods supplies its customers with the best so they can please their own customers. Sandwiches that feature premium components such as Hilltop Hearth® artisan breads, Patuxent Farms® meats, Roseli® and Glenview Farms® cheeses, and Cross Valley Farms® produce are on-trend and stand out from the competition. For more information, contact your US Foods representative.