CHICAGO - Sandwiches are the cornerstone of lunch and dinner menus at both limited- and full-service restaurants, where they are offered more than any other entrÃ©e. More consumers report purchasing sandwiches away from home today versus just two years ago due in large part to operators' innovative responses to consumer demands for lower prices, greater variety, fresher fare, flexible portions and healthier items.
While the industry as a whole lost 4,500 restaurants in 2011, the limited-service sandwich segment grew by 800 units, spurred by Subway, which netted 872 new franchised restaurants in the United States by focusing on healthy, fresh and affordably priced sandwiches.
"Today€™s consumer expects greater customization and broader sandwich options," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. "Trends in portion flexibility, variety, freshness and shareability have come to the forefront of this segment. Shareable options give operators a chance to go beyond the standard menu and try new ethnic sandwiches. Often these ethnic and next-level sandwiches, which focus on gourmet ingredients and toppings, are introduced through mini sandwiches or wraps. Giving consumers smaller, shareable portion options can be considered as healthier with less calories. This trend shows no signs of slowing down."
Technomic€™s Sandwich Consumer Trend Report found that 41% of consumers between the ages of 25 and 34 would like more restaurants to offer mini-sandwiches that can be eaten as a snack or light meal, up 15% since 2010. More consumers are purchasing grab-and-go sandwiches, reflecting a greater shift toward increased convenience and prepared foods.
Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches continue to take off. This simple American sandwich staple is getting an update, as whole concepts are being built on the appeal of high-end, high-quality grilled cheese. Specialty breads offer operators and suppliers a strong avenue for sandwich differentiation. Focaccia, ciabatta and sourdough have seen modest increases on menus. Gluten-free flatbread, bun and wrap options are becoming increasingly prevalent.