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Thinking outside the bread

panera turkey cranberry flatbread

Although it’s easy to get caught up in the fillings and toppings on sandwich menus, operators shouldn’t ignore the foundation of the sandwich: the carrier.

Bread, of course, has been doing the heavy lifting in sandwiches for ages. But in recent years, alternative carriers inspired by pita, lavash, naan and other global flatbreads have added variety and excitement to the sandwich scene across foodservice segments.

While sandwiches are go-to items all day long, their convenience and versatility make them especially marketable at lunchtime. Technomic summed up sandwiches as “quintessential lunch cuisine and a key platform for innovation” in its 2014 Lunch Consumer Trend Report.

And on-trend, well-executed carriers have been proven to drive the craveability of sandwiches. Take Wendy’s super-popular Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger and Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich. The unique pretzel buns of those items received much of the credit for spawning social media buzz and hiking same-store sales when Wendy’s launched them as limited-time offerings a few years ago.

Similarly, Jack in the Box’s popular Classic Buttery Jack burger, part of a wide-ranging ingredient upgrade at the quick-service chain, boasts a toasted bun dressed with melted garlic herb butter, replacing the old sesame-seed bun.

But looking for inspiration outside of specialty breads and buns can yield profits. Alternative carriers such as flatbreads are popping up on more menus. Corner Bakery Café’s Grilled Flats are warm grilled flatbreads stuffed with fresh ingredients and drizzled with dressing and come in variations such as Southwest Chicken, Asian Pork and Chicken Caesar.

These carriers aren’t limited to quick-service or fast casual, either. The casual-dining chain Bar Louie menus a Grilled Veggie Wrap, and Ground Round Grill & Bar menus the Hot Sicilian—ham, pepperoni, applewood-smoked bacon and mozzarella on grilled flatbread.

This post is sponsored by Rich's Foodservice

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