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Three Chain on a Roll

Sandwich concepts need to buy a lot of bread; these three operators found different sourcing solutions.

Rising Roll, an Atlanta-based sandwich chain with 13 locations, works with one supplier to source par-baked breads like boules, raisin pumpernickel, croissants and tandoori. Each franchisee thaws and bakes the breads and rolls from mid-morning throughout lunch, so fresh product is always coming out of the oven and there’s little waste. “The baking aroma creates a selling point,” says president Mike Lassiter.

His supplier has also created some proprietary products, like the signature 4.5-ounce French boule; both its size and texture were customized. “Our customers in the South like their bread a little softer, so we modified the classic recipe a little,” Lassiter reports.

At Amato’s out of Portland, Maine, “it’s all about the bread,” says Jeff Perkins, director of marketing and franchising. Giovanni Amato started baking and selling rolls in 1902 from the Portland docks and his great-grandsons still produce the same roll at Amato’s Bakery. “It was originally formulated to be a sandwich roll with a soft center—the antithesis of the crusty, hard Italian bread,” Perkins explains. To control the quality and consistency of “the most important part” of its Real Italian sandwich, Perkins explains, the regional chain continues to source that Italian roll from Amato’s Bakery, which it bought eight years ago. “The roll absorbs and melds the flavors of the sandwich ingredients—meats, vegetables, oil and seasonings,” he says. Except for the wraps, the 31-unit concept purchases all its bread from its bakery.

Each of the 48 Erbert & Gerbert’s, based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, bakes its own bread. “We have proofers and ovens in all 48 stores to bake bread fresh all day,” says Doug Klunk, director of operations. “If the bread is older than five hours, we donate it to a food pantry.” The chain serves its sandwiches on 8-inch-long white or honey wheat rolls.

Between the bread

In this competitive sandwich market, the filling has to live up to its cover. What are operators buying to stuff inside and how can they maximize profits in this period of escalating food costs?

“We make all our tuna, chicken and egg salad fillings in house,” says Mike Lassiter of Rising Roll. “For our best-selling chicken salad, we spec whole muscle meat and cook it from scratch. Right now, chicken and cheese are sky high, but using a variety of proteins helps control costs.”

Erbert & Gerbert’s, the regional Wisconsin-based chain, buys only solid muscle deli meats—no pressed or formed products. Its Flash Italian club is made with capicola ham, Genoa salami and smoked Virginia ham; prime roast beef goes on Halley’s Comet and real turkey breast on the Boney Billy. “We work through Sysco, but bid out to several suppliers to get the best quality at the best price,” says Doug Klunk. “We train our staff to ‘balance and build’. The proteins and cheeses have to evenly cover the length of the bread and they use minimal oil or mayonnaise to just highlight the taste of the filling—not overpower it.”

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