Erbert & Gerbert’s, the Eau Claire, Wisconsin-based chain known for its signature sandwiches with quirky names, discovered a hole in its lineup: no chicken sandwich. “Chicken is the leading protein in the country, but we didn’t have it on the menu,” says John Tvedt, director of operations for the 52-unit chain. This hole was recently filled with the launch of the Spartan Sandwich.
Picking the protein
“We always start sandwich development by asking, ‘What particular protein are we looking to use and how can we make it unique?’” Tvedt explains. Erbert & Gerbert’s worked with Wisconsin company Armour-Eckrich to source a proprietary oven-roasted chicken breast. Then the team looked at their “make table” to build the new sandwich with products in stock—lettuce, tomatoes, onions and their signature bread. Next step: identify a unique sauce.
Leading with flavor
To help drive E&G’s new “Flavor Nation” campaign and differentiate this chicken sandwich, Tvedt’s goal was “to lead with flavor—not with the chicken. Unilever, one of our vendor partners, suggested peppadew—a fruit that has recently been incorporated into some sauces and goes really well with chicken.” He found the perfect sauce—a peppadew mustard. “It was a nice combo of sweet and spice.”
Leading with flavor” extends to the menu description of the Spartan—it’s listed as “Peppadew Mustard Chicken.” many of E&G’s other sandwiches lead with the protein in their descriptions [i.e. ham and roast beef]. “To take the Spartan’s flavor up another level, cherrywood smoked bacon is layered on top,” Tvedt adds.
Not saucy enough
During the development of the sandwich, cases of sauces were shipped in and Tvedt’s team opened each jar and placed a little on their tongues to test them out. Those that made the cut were next tried with the chicken. “We did this until we came up with the right match in the peppadew mustard,” says Tvedt. Rejects included beer mustard, cranberry wasabi, horseradish mustard, plum sauce, fig sauce and sweet chili sauce.
Local sourcing, fair pricing
E&G’s believes in partnering with local companies whenever possible. In addition to chicken supplier Armour-Eckrich, the peppadew mustard is supplied by a sauce producer in Silver Springs, Wisconsin, and the sandwich’s cheese is Wisconsin cheddar.
“We launched the Spartan at $5.99 during a challenging time in the economy,” says Tvedt. “But we found that people are willing to pay for quality and flavor.”
The R&D team will continue to focus on sauces that differentiate E&G’s sandwiches while looking ahead to items suitable for summer, including egg salad and a chicken club with avocado. “We’re liking the creamy texture of avocado with the crunch of cucumber on a sandwich,” says Tvedt. Perhaps the starting point for another chicken sandwich?