How do you fill the innovation pipeline in a supply chain-challenged world? Engage your employees and create a contest where each location is invited to create new recipes utilizing only existing ingredients.

To combat supply chain issues and rising food costs, Au Bon Pain launched a “Sandwich Madness” contest, which enlisted its 3,000-plus sandwich makers, bakers and cafe employees across the nation to submit a sandwich recipe and menu description. Tapping into the talent and creativity within their cafes, contestants competed in three heated brackets, with two winners emerging in the Championship round.

Today the chain announced the winners — The Ranchero Wrap and The Cleveland Fireside Egg Sandwich. Both will be featured as upcoming LTOs in late 2022.

“Inflation and supply chain issues challenge all restaurants,” says Au Bon Pain Corporate Chef Anne Riley. “By tapping into our employees and their creativity with ingredients, we can offer new, craveable sandwiches without straining resources.”

A panel of expert judges, including Riley, named the winning sandwiches from 45 contest entries.

The Ranchero Wrap is a hot wrap featuring BBQ marinated chicken, a three-cheese blend, red bell peppers, tomatoes, red onions, arugula, ranch dressing and chipotle mayo on a whole wheat tortilla. It was co-created by Genisis Santos and Laura Lopez from Au Bon Pain’s bakery café at Bellevue Hospital, 462 First Ave. in New York City.

The Cleveland Fireside Egg Sandwich is a breakfast sandwich featuring eggs, hardwood smoked bacon, swiss cheese, tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, spinach and chipotle mayo on ciabatta. Michael Thomas and Michellica Burson from Au Bon Pain’s bakery cafe at 600 Superior Avenue in Cleveland created this masterpiece.

In addition to having their sandwiches featured as an upcoming LTO, each winner received a cash prize and a special trophy featuring their recipes. Genisis Santos and Michael Thomas represented their recipes at the Boston championship round.

Employees from many of the brand’s 119 U.S.-based franchise- and corporate-owned locations submitted a recipe, and Riley sees team building as an added benefit of the contest.

“Our teams responded with such excitement and creativity. We received so many delicious recipes,” says Riley. “Seeing both corporate-owned and franchise cafes enthusiastically collaborate made for a fun competition that will bring even more mouth-watering recipes to our guests.”  

Fast Casual, Marketing & Promotions, News, Au Bon Pain