In the Kitchen
Between the bread
Discovering new sandwich flavours, toppings and trends
By Stefanie Croley
Consumers like convenient and affordable food that satisfies their taste
buds yet offers something different from the usual fast-food options.
Consumers like convenient and affordable food that satisfies their taste buds yet offers something different from the usual fast-food options.
Enter the sandwich: the meal that bridges the gap between fast food and fast casual. Jeff Mauro, host of the Food Network show Sandwich King, claims he can turn any meal into a sandwich, and any sandwich into a meal. Recent research from Technomic found that sandwiches are cornerstone menu items at both quick-service and fast-casual restaurants. Technomic polled 1,000 consumers from Canada, 1,500 from the United States and 1,000 from the United Kingdom. Those surveyed were asked to include breakfast, deli, salad and sub sandwiches, burgers, burritos, hotdogs and wraps in their definition of a sandwich. Here’s a closer look at the what the people had to say about sandwiches.
The most important sandwich of the day
A quarter of respondents said they consume breakfast sandwiches at least once a week. Bagels and English muffins are the clear choices for breakfast sandwiches. If you’re open in the morning, create a breakfast panzerotti or an omelet wrap with scrambled eggs and vegetables to appeal to your early risers. Pork-based traditional breakfast meats, such as bacon, peameal bacon, ham and sausage, would be great additions too, and lighter items, such as cream cheese and smoked salmon bagels will appeal to your brunch customers. Technomic reported that white cheddar is the most popular choice for breakfast sandwiches, but mozzarella, cream cheese and Swiss are also regularly enjoyed.
Lunchtime and dinner trends
Lunch is prime sandwich time, with two out of five consumers polled saying they eat sandwiches at least once a week for lunch. One quarter of respondents answered that a sandwich is their choice for dinner at least once a week. Healthy and affordable options are two of the most sought-after components, but convenience of location and speed of preparation are important as well. Sandwiches are the number 1 entrée offered at fast-food restaurants, and chicken is the preferred protein option. Artisan-style Italian or French breads are popular at lunch and dinner, as they are filling and appeal to those looking for something more gourmet.
Condiments and ingredients
Popular sandwich varieties have evolved from traditional ham and cheese and peanut butter and jelly, to Greek gyros and Mexican burritos. Meatball and veal parmigiana sandwiches and calzones or panzerottis are items already likely on your menu, but what do you offer to top them with? The Technomic research showed that standard sandwich toppings, such as lettuce, tomato and onion, reign supreme, but options such as mushrooms, green peppers and olives are appealing too. Consumers see these additions as ways to give sandwiches a more complex texture and flavour. Offering filling options such as roasted red peppers, sautéed onions and fresh tomatoes will give your sandwiches a boost in this category.
Cheese is an essential element in many sandwiches, and different cheeses can take your sandwiches to a new level. Cheddar is a fan favourite, with 70 per cent of those surveyed placing it in their top 5 cheese varieties. Mozzarella and Swiss are close behind, but interestingly, mozzarella is more popular at dinner while lunchtime diners prefer Swiss. Try substituting applewood-smoked cheddar for regular cheddar, or use provolone instead of mozzarella, to give the sandwich a new taste and flavour profile.
Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip is the top condiment option for lunch and dinner sandwiches. Garlic mayonnaise, or aioli, is the most preferred flavour: try using it over regular mayo on a chicken club sandwich. Honey mustard and barbecue sauces are numbers 2 and 3 on the top condiment lists, but notably, more than 25 per cent of those surveyed indicated a desire for more ethnic flavours and ingredients. Ethnic sauces are making their mark on the consumer, with approximately a quarter of consumers choosing sauces like tzatziki, sweet onion or guacamole. Consider adding an Indian-inspired sandwich on naan bread, or a banh mi, a Vietnamese specialty with meat and soy fillings, to your menu.
From tapas to bite-sized baked goods, mini portions are growing in popularity. The survey found that the mini-food trend isn’t slowing down, indicating that one-fifth of consumers snack on sandwiches once a week or more. And, since three-fifths of sandwiches consumed are taken to go, the snack market is calling. Smaller wraps or sandwiches offered at lower price points can help you make a move into the snack market, appealing to those who need something to hold them over when on the run. Classic sandwiches are being updated, and new twists on old favourites are sure to please customers. Grilled cheese, for example, is going gourmet, and the Gorilla Cheese from Hamilton, Ont., has recognized this trend. Gorilla Cheese offers the original grilled cheese with classic gooey cheddar, but its menu also includes gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches such as Gorilla Sarducci (made with mozzarella, tomatoes, red onions, basil and balsamic glaze) and the Big Katuna (with mozzarella, tuna salad, avocado spread and red onion). The truck has also recognized Technomic’s point that innovative toppings and combinations are on the rise. Create a twist on a classic ham and cheese by using prosciutto and smoked Gruyère. A slice of apple on top offers an unexpected flavour and crunch.
Whether your establishment already offers several sandwich options, or you’re just beginning to dip your toes into the water, sandwiches are here to stay. Meet your customers’ demands by adding new varieties to your menu, creating twists on old favourites and coming up with your own unique combinations.