The sandwich connoisseurs have spoken. From club sandwiches and muffulettas at fast-casual joints to tuna or steak subs at quick-service restaurants, consumers’ most craveable chain sandwiches run the gamut. Fun fact: It’s not just what's between the buns that make a sandwich crave-worthy—it’s the buns themselves, too, plus the factors beyond ingredients like the ability to customize.
Limited-service sandwich concepts have apparently mastered the menu staple, as no full-service restaurants (nor nonsandwich concepts) made the top 10 list.
Click through to find the 10 chains that recent customers say offer the most craveable sandwiches out of any of the leading chains surveyed for Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics data. The chains are ranked from 10th to first in order of the percentage of recent diners who say the sandwiches are crave-worthy and one of a kind.
10. McAlister’s Deli
About three in 10 recent customers crave the sandwiches at McAlister’s Deli. Consumers overwhelmingly point to the fast-casual chain’s signature McAlister Club as craveable. It features smoked turkey, Black Forest ham, bacon, sharp cheddar, Swiss, lettuce, tomatoes, honey mustard and mayo on wheat bread.
Consumers also indicate the French dip—featuring Black Angus roast beef with melted Swiss on a toasted baguette served au jus—as craveable. Last fall, McAlister’s revamped its French dip to include more meat, something one respondent specifically called out as the craveable factor of the chain’s sandwiches.
More than three in 10 recent customers say they can’t get their Arby’s sandwich fix anywhere else. Unsurprisingly, the most craveable sandwich mention in the verbatims for the quick-service sandwich chain is the signature roast beef. Some customers call out Arby’s Sauce and horseradish-based Horsey Sauce as desirable toppings. Also receiving praise is a variation of the roast beef, dubbed Beef ’N Cheddar, which features roast beef topped with cheddar cheese sauce and Red Ranch served on a toasted onion roll.
Some consumers also point to Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich as crave-worthy. As brisket’s been on fire over the past year, chains like Arby’s have recently added to their brisket line with extensions like the Smoke Mountain Sandwich, featuring smoked brisket, pork belly, pit-smoked ham and other toppings on a bun.
8. Jason’s Deli
A third of recent customers say that sandwiches at Jason’s Deli are a craveable item they can only get at that brand. Many consumers point to the Muffulettas (available in Ham & Salami and Quarter Roasted Turkey Breast varieties) and the Reuben as crave-worthy sandwich options.
Additionally, many consumers directly called out the fact that sandwiches at the fast casual can be customized as a craveable feature, with verbatims like “I love the sandwich that I always build,” “Build your own sandwiches” and “Made to my directions.”
Over a third of recent customers find sandwiches crave-worthy at Subway. The quick-service sandwich giant’s Italian BMT, Classic Tuna and Steak & Cheese received multiple mentions from consumers.
However, more than any particular sandwich, consumers specifically call out Subway’s ability to customize and variety of offerings (especially breads and veggies) as craveable. Some notable verbatims include “Wide variety of customizable sandwiches,” “The different types of bread for the sandwiches” and “All the different veggies to go on the sandwiches.” One consumer even points to staff’s ability to customize creatively as crave-worthy: “The person making the sub can always put their own twist on it.”
Sandwiches at Schlotzsky’s are a craveable item that over two-fifths of recent customers say they can only get there. The fast-casual sandwich chain’s The Original Sandwich has consumers raving as one of the most craveable sandwich mentions, with one respondent noting that it resembles “a version of New Orleans muffuletta.” Toasted sourdough bread and signature sauce at Schlotzsky’s also receive notable mentions, which are both featured on The Original, along with smoked ham and two salamis.
In addition to being craveable, multiple consumers call the sandwiches at Schlotzsky’s “unique”—particularly in reference to the sandwich breads available, including signature sourdough, ciabatta and pretzel rolls.
5. Potbelly Sandwich Shop
More than two in five recent customers crave the sandwiches at Potbelly. The quick-service sandwich chain offers “specialty sandwiches that are not available elsewhere,” as one consumer states. The Wreck sub is a notable favorite (combining salami, roast beef, turkey and ham), with the Italian (featuring four Italian meats) following suit, proving many customers at Potbelly particularly hanker for the multimeat options.
A number of consumers also point to the chain’s proprietary hot pepper blend as a craveable add-on to sandwiches. The giardiniera-style mix combines serrano peppers, carrots, celery, jalapenos, red bell peppers, cauliflower and green olives. It’s available as a free topping or for purchase in a jar at Potbelly locations.
Over two-fifths of recent customers crave Quiznos’ sandwiches and say they can’t get them anywhere else. Consumers especially refer to the distinct toasting method Quiznos offers as craveable, with one consumer stating that the toasting method makes the sandwich taste “like it’s right out of the oven,” and another pointing to “the brick-oven flavor” of the subs.
Specific craveable sandwiches include a number of steak selections, particularly Black Angus Steak and Chipotle Steak & Cheddar, and chicken subs such as the Carbonara, Mesquite and Baja. Bread variety is also named specifically by consumers as craveable—offerings include ciabatta, flatbread, white, wheat, rosemary Parmesan and jalapeno cheddar.
3. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches
Almost half of all recent customers say that Jimmy John’s serves up mouthwatering sandwiches they can’t get anywhere else. While customers crave traditional options like the Vito (an Italian sub) and Totally Tuna (a tuna salad sub), a number of consumers also consider healthier options like the Unwich—a lettuce wrap that replaces the bread—to be crave-worthy. The veggie assortment, avocado spread and bread are also cited as craveable options.
The fast-casual sandwich chain’s consistent marketing message is clearly resonating with consumers, as freshness is a major callout by Jimmy John’s consumers as a craveable element to the sandwiches. Verbatims include “The buns are fresh and so is the meat” and “All food is so fresh. Better than most other restaurants that serve fresh ingredients. Craving these is easy.” Jimmy John’s marketing slogans regularly use the phrase “Fresh made fast,” with promos about employees slicing meat fresh every day since the chain’s founding in 1983.
2. Jersey Mike’s Subs
Half of recent customers hanker for Jersey Mike’s sandwiches and say they can’t find sandwiches like them anywhere else. Consumers note the chain’s signature red wine vinegar and olive oil combination and the hot cherry pepper relish as crave-worthy. Another craveable aspect of the fast-casual sandwich chain is its dedication to freshness, housemade prep and transparency—meats and cheeses are sliced with every order in front of the customer.
Go-to craveable subs mentioned by consumers include Jersey Mike’s Famous Philly, The Original Italian and the Grilled Pastrami Reuben.
1. Firehouse Subs
Almost three-fifths of recent customers rate Firehouse Subs’ sandwiches as crave-worthy, elevating these sandwiches to the most craveable top spot. Consumers specifically point to the Hook & Ladder as sparking cravings, a sub featuring smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham and melted Monterey Jack. Consumers also yearn for Firehouse Steak & Cheese and Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket.
In addition to most craveable chain sandwiches, Firehouse Subs is also ranked No. 1 in other recent Technomic surveys, most notably America’s favorite chain for 2017.