A sandwich star is born

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.”

Next up

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?

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


How Popeyes changed the chicken business

How did a once-struggling, regional bone-in chicken chain overtake KFC, the formerly dominant player in the U.S. market? With a fixation on sandwiches and many more new restaurants.


Get ready for a summertime value war

The Bottom Line: With more customers opting to eat at home, rather than at restaurants, more fast-food chains will start pushing value this summer.


Inside Chili's quest to craft a value-priced burger that could take on McDonald's

Behind the Menu: How the casual-dining chain smashes expectations with a winning combination of familiarity and price with its new Big Smasher burger.


More from our partners