Outside Insights | November 2016

5 Sandwich Trends Every Operator Needs to Know

National Sandwich Day is a perfect time to start focusing on trendy flavors that will help a brand stand out from the crowd.
Sandwiches don't need to be pinned down to the varieties that have been available for years. Thinkstock
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It’s National Sandwich Day, and if the social media hashtag is any indication, this staple of American cuisine is more popular than ever. Sandwiches have been a major part of the American food scene for decades, and the convenience they provide for both sandwich makers and consumers ensures they’ll remain that way.

Sandwiches may be a staple of the American food scene, but that doesn’t mean they need to be pinned down to the varieties that have been available for years. The sandwich scene is consistently primed for new trends to emerge. Innovative sandwich makers can increase sales by focusing on trendy flavor combinations that help them stand out from the crowd. As sandwiches still continue to dominate the quick-service space, here are some of the trends that we’re seeing now and will continue to see in 2017:

Cultural Cuisine

Incorporating flavors from different cultures and cuisines allow restaurants to constantly evolve their sandwich offerings and create something unique. The popularity of regional sandwiches, such as the Philly Cheese Steak, outside their home markets demonstrates the possibility for the growth of other regional favorites, such as the New York Reuben and California French Dip.

Breakfast is In

Sandwiches are also growing from their prominence on lunch and dinner menus to dominate breakfast menus across the country, which provides another daypart for sandwich chains to leverage. And many restaurants are able to offer sandwiches featuring typical breakfast ingredients, such as eggs, throughout the day, as many consumers have indicated a willingness to order breakfast sandwiches outside the normal breakfast hours. Recognizing this trend, Capriotti’s recently added a breakfast menu that has been very successful.

Everyone is Trying to Get Healthy

As U.S. consumers, especially millennials, continue to trend toward food options they view as healthy, sandwiches’ versatility allow them to keep up with the times. While meat consumption continues to grow globally, demand for beef is in decline. Consumers looking to steer their diet away from a reliance on red meat can find many healthier options on sandwich menus.

Cleaner Chicken is Key

Chicken will figure heavily into sandwich recipes across all segments in the future. Many view chicken, which is increasingly raised organically and without the use of antibiotics, as a “cleaner” and healthier choice. Millennial consumers also seek less-processed food options—pre-cut deli meats aren’t going to cut it anymore. Capriotti’s, which uses fresh, all-natural ingredients such as slow-roasted whole turkey, offers an alternative to processed and heavily salted proteins.

Go Light or Go Home

While thick, bold, indulgent sandwiches get the lion’s share of attention among foodies, the versatile category also leaves plenty of room for lighter fare. Lessons learned from diverse, ethnic cuisines are being applied to create healthier options without sacrificing flavor. A broad list of ingredients ranging from soy-based proteins to vegetable alternatives ensures that even consumer with restrictive diets can find a sandwich that matches their tastes.

Due to the versatility of the sandwich, there are endless opportunities for innovation and creativity. As an expert in the sandwich industry, these are some of the trends I foresee in the future and ones to look out for.

Ashley Morris is CEO of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, a specialty sandwich shop known for its tradition of roasting whole turkeys overnight and hand-pulling the meat off the bones to create its turkey sandwiches. Morris’s journey from fan to franchisee, and finally franchisor, has allowed him to gain a unique perspective on the business. Since becoming CEO in 2008, Morris has grown Capriotti’s presence from 40 locations in eight states to more than 100 units. With a recent significant investment by franchise veteran David Barr, the two plan to take Capriotti's growth to the next level.