According to Technomic’s 2018 Sandwich report, 61% of consumers eat a sandwich at home or at a foodservice location at least once a week. And it’s easy to see why: they’re customizable, portable, easily adaptable to dietary needs and preferences and the variations are endless.
Additionally, 23% of consumers say that compared to two years ago, they’re purchasing sandwiches away from home more often. For that reason, operators are looking for ways to attract more diners with sandwiches, and one way to do so is by “premiumizing” their sandwiches. From offering better quality ingredients, alternative proteins, craveable toppings and more, here are four ways that operators can differentiate their menu from the competition.
1. Premium ingredients
From organic vegetables to artisan cheeses, there are several ways by which operators can upgrade their sandwiches. According to Technomic’s 2018 Sandwich report, 80% of consumers say that meat quality is the most important thing they look for when ordering a sandwich. By offering meats that are high quality—such as those from brands that consumers recognize and trust—operators may see an increase in sales. Likewise, health-halo terms, including all-natural, free-range or organic, can help pique interest as well. Consumers may gravitate toward sandwiches with ingredients such as antibiotic-free turkey thanks to their perceived health benefits.
2. Alternative proteins
Just 37% of consumers say they’re satisfied with the availability of healthy sandwiches at foodservice locations, according to Technomic’s Sandwich report. And while only a small portion of the population follows a plant-based or vegetarian diet, offering plant-forward sandwiches can be a great way to appeal to more those diners who want healthier options.
Another way to appeal to health-conscious diners is to call out different nutritional attributes on menus, such as “low calorie,” “low fat’ or “low salt.” By offering lower fat proteins—like turkey bacon instead of pork bacon or a veggie patty instead of beef—consumers may be more inclined to purchase a sandwich at a particular location.
3. Offering craveable, unique flavors
Technomic’s Sandwich report finds that 40% of consumers say that uniqueness is important when they decide where to purchase a sandwich, and 39% (including 50% of diners 18- to 34-years old) say they would like restaurants to offer more sandwiches with new or unique flavors. To premiumize the sandwich menu, chains can look at trending ingredients and incorporate those ingredients and flavors into their offerings. For instance, some trending ingredients for breakfast sandwiches, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, include: cucumber, thyme, sage, oregano, gouda, guacamole, manchego and mango. And for lunch and dinner sandwiches, trending flavors include gruyere, poblano and citrus.
House-made sauces and spreads are also perfect for premiumizing the sandwich menu. According to Technomic’s Healthy Eating report, 71% of consumers say that house-made or homemade foods are tastier. Additionally, 74% are more likely to buy foods labeled house-made, and 34% would pay more for them. Unique spreads that are made in house are a winning combination for adding premium quality to sandwiches. Operators can offer up unique spreads such as roasted red pepper aioli, chimichurri sauce or toum, a Lebanese garlic sauce.
4. New and exciting breads and sandwich carriers
“White or wheat?” used to be the extent of sandwich bread offerings, but nowadays, there are an almost unlimited number of available options. From lettuce wraps for those who want to cut their carbohydrate intake to gluten-free breads to wraps, pitas, croissants and pretzel rolls, offering a variety of options for the sandwich carrier is key when upgrading sandwich menus. It also plays into consumers’ desire to customize their sandwiches; the more components they have to select from, the better the overall experience.
Understand what your diners need
Third-party ordering services, such as GrubHub or DoorDash, are especially popular among millennial diners. Nearly half say they choose restaurants because they don’t have time to cook at home. While convenience is crucial to those in this demographic, they’re also seeking new and interesting dishes—40% like going to restaurants that offer innovative flavors.
Chefs and operators can balance diners’ demand for convenience and flavor with turkey. It’s a versatile ingredient that works across the menu and in all kinds of ethnic cuisines. Plus, turkey is lower in fat and calories than its red meat counterparts.
More than half of millennials surveyed choose turkey because they perceive it to be healthier than other protein options, and 43% would order turkey more often if chefs used it in a variety of creative ways. Dishes such as the Turkey Burger Fajita Salad and Singapore Meatballs and Zoodles are two examples of innovative, global-inspired turkey dishes that can travel well for delivery or can be packaged up easily for to-go orders—meeting millennials’ needs for quick meals with interesting flavor in one fell swoop.
Find more recipe inspiration for on-trend dishes that keep patrons coming back for more in Butterball’s Culinary Center.
Technomic Generational Consumer Trend Report, 2016
Butterball Proprietary Consumer Research, 2017