Trends & Insights

Sandwiches Give Comfort

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Sandwiches—these popular, handheld meals—represent convenience, flavor and comfort for generations of diners. The sandwich’s hard-working, meal-in-one platform of bread, filling, condiments and toppings adds up to a satisfying and comforting dining experience, whether eaten on-the-go or on-premise, or for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In addition, because so many sandwiches are made-to-order, they satisfy consumer desire for freshness, variety and customization.

According to proprietary research prepared for Advance Pierre Foods by Technomic, sandwiches account for eight of the Top 10 comfort-food product categories offered by operators, including:

  1. Chicken Sandwich/Wrap
  2. Specialty Burger
  3. Cheeseburger
  4. Mixed Protein Sandwich
  5. Bacon Cheeseburger
  6. Roast Beef/French Dip Sandwich/Wrap
  7. Hamburger
  8. Pork Sandwich/Wrap

From fried chicken sandwiches to meatball subs, comforting sandwiches are menu mainstays.

Chicken Wins

Technomic data reveals that chicken sandwiches lead the comfort-food product category by a wide margin, appearing on nearly twice the number of menus as specialty burgers do. In fact, the recent “chicken wars” have seen a flurry of chains adding chicken sandwich options to the menu, as well as high-profile new start-ups specializing in chicken sandwiches (including fast-growing Organic Coup—fried chicken sandwiches, wraps and salad—and David Chang’s Fuku, with its signature spicy fried chicken sandwich).

For Example: Royal Rooster Sandwich (fresh chicken breast marinated in ‘mojo’ sauce, fried and topped with bacon and Monterey Jack cheese, served on an Aloha bun) – Baumhower’s Restaurant (casual restaurant with seven locations in Alabama).

However, while fried chicken sandwiches are particularly newsworthy—and craveable—right now, many consumers surveyed by Technomic are looking for healthful chicken preparations, including grilled, barbecued and baked. This leaves plenty of room on the menu for grilled chicken breast sandwiches (a customer favorite), chicken salad sandwiches, chicken wraps and more.

For Example: Grilled Chicken Sandwich (all-white meat chicken breast fillet, marinated in a blend of herbs, topped with smoky honey mustard, spring mix and tomato, served on a toasted multigrain bun) – Wendy’s (Ohio-based fast-food chain)

The Burger Boom

Burgers of all kinds are another winner in the comforting sandwich category. From straightforward burgers served with lettuce, tomato and ketchup to over-the-top specialties finished with everything from fried eggs to foie gras, burgers satisfy a deep, fundamental craving for a sandwich that’s hot, juicy and delicious.

With the popularity of burgers continuing to grow, it should come as no surprise that burger menu selections are becoming more diverse, including:

  • Premium beef, such as Certified Angus and all-natural
  • Stuffed burgers
  • Alternative proteins (turkey, pork, lamb, chicken and vegetarian)
  • Bold flavor profiles (chilies, blue cheese, jerk seasoning, smoked bacon)
  • Sliders and other smaller-size burgers
  • Specialty breads (telera rolls, baguette, multigrain)
  • Signature toppings and condiments (housemade ketchup, balsamic onions, arugula, pimiento cheese)

For Example: Terlingua Burger (Angus beef, chile con carne, Tillamook cheedare, corn Fritos, sassy sauce, red leaf lettuce, white onion, beefsteak tomato on housemade bun) – Hopdoddy Burger Bar (casual burger chain based in Texas),

The Other Sandwich Protein

In the drive to create memorable new sandwiches, restaurant operators are turning to pork to set themselves apart. Pork has a long history in global cuisine that translates well to signature sandwiches on mainstream menus. Technomic points to the popularity of Southern-style and American regional specialties like breaded-fried pork loin/tenderloin, pulled and barbecued pork, and ham and sausages. Latin-style sandwich specialties include carnitas (braised seasoned pork, often served in tacos and tortas, the Mexican version of a sandwich) and Cuban sandwiches (a grilled sandwich made with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread).

For Example: Pork Rambler (Fried pork tenderloin, blackberry butter and fried onion straws on a biscuit) – Holler & Dash (Cracker Barrel’s new Southern concept, two locations in Alabama)

 

With so many sandwich options on the customer’s radar, it’s easy to see why the category is so adaptable to the ever-popular comfort-food trend.