Sandwich innovations keep restaurant customers coming back for more

Sandwiches are the cornerstone of lunch and dinner menus at both limited- and full-service restaurants, where they are offered more than any other entrĂ©e. More consumers report purchasing sandwiches away from home today vs. 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 U.S. focusing on healthy, fresh, and lower-priced sandwiches.

“Today’s consumer expects greater customization and broader sandwich options,” says Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. “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.”

To help operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry more effectively identify opportunities for growth and gain a competitive advantage, Technomic has developed the Sandwich Consumer Trend Report.

Interesting findings include:

  • 41 percent of consumers ages 25-34 would like more restaurants to offer mini-sandwiches that can be eaten as a snack or light meal, up 15 percentage points since 2010.
  • 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.
  • More consumers are purchasing grab-and-go sandwiches, reflecting a greater shift toward increased convenience and prepared foods.

Technomic’s Sandwich Consumer Trend Report examines consumer behavior, preferences and attitudes regarding sandwiches based on survey results from 1,500 consumers. For this report, Technomic asked consumers to include breakfast, deli, salad, and sub sandwiches, burgers, burritos, hot dogs, and wraps in their definition of a sandwich. The Menu Insights section utilizes Technomic’s MenuMonitor online database to provide an in-depth look at how leading and emerging chain operators menu and position sandwiches. Technomic has been studying the sandwich category for 45 years and has produced three Consumer Trend Reports on the topic in the past ten years.

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Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include numerous publications and digital products, as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry.