Restaurants could be leaving sandwich revenue on the table

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Restaurants could be leaving sandwich revenue on the table

Nov 24, 2014 Bret Thorn

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No meal is more central to the American diet than the sandwich. Portable, convenient and eminently customizable, it fits the needs of the modern consumer, and recent research shows that there’s still a long runway for growth of sandwich sales in restaurants.

Americans ate 12.5 billion sandwiches in restaurants from October 2013 to October 2014. But a recent survey of more than 1,000 consumers by a menu research firm found that even more sandwiches are eaten at home, with ingredients bought from supermarkets and other retailers.

It’s not that restaurants aren’t offering sandwiches: More than seven out of 10 restaurants have sandwiches on their menu, including six out of 10 fine-dining restaurants. But consumers eat different sandwiches at home than in restaurants, the menu research firm found. More than three-quarters of ham and turkey sandwiches are prepared at home and eaten cold, while 57 percent of chicken sandwiches are warm and bought away from home.

Today’s consumers are encountering a wider variety of sandwich options and flavors including those with different regional and ethnic influences, as well as those with more healthful and premium ingredients and artisan flourishes.

Although healthful items, or at least items perceived as healthful, are increasingly an important factor for consumers, sausage is the fastest-growing sandwich protein.

Chicken still reigns

Still, chicken, which customers widely see as better for them than most other animal proteins, is the most ubiquitous. Chicken was available on sandwiches at 85 percent of restaurants that offered sandwiches as of June 2014.

Independent restaurants are adding spicy flavors to their chicken, which saw a 39-percent increase in the mention of “chipotle chicken” on menus, and a 24-percent bump in “curry chicken” as of June 2014.

Bread — or tortillas or flatbreads, which are in 30 percent of restaurants that offer sandwiches — is where a great sandwich starts, as far as many consumers are concerned.

So it’s not surprising that restaurants experimented with bread and other carriers during the past year. The fastest-growing was the pretzel roll, which was on 33 percent more menus in June 2014 compared with a year earlier. Since then new pretzel sandwiches have been added..

Baby arugula is on 90 percent more menus than it was a year ago. Other fast-growing menu terms are Sriracha, which has risen 82 percent, and gluten free, which has increased 67 percent. Additionally, in June 2014, 35 percent more restaurants mentioned that they offered vegan sandwiches, compared with the same period last year.

Don’t forget the sauce

When it comes to condiments, Sriracha sauce remained the fastest growing. Perhaps surprisingly, the second fastest-growing was jam, which was rose 38 percent and appeared on sandwiches like the Turkey Brie Pepper Jam on a baguette.

Researchers also found that sandwiches were expanding beyond their usual dayparts, especially among Millennials, who more than any other age group said they were likely to eat non-breakfast sandwiches at lunch. A quarter of them considered sandwiches to be a suitable late-night snack.

Source:, 11-25-2014

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