White Castle has been a morning player for 30 years, with most of its 401 stores selling breakfast from midnight to 10:30 a.m. Egg-bacon-and-cheese sandwiches are a favorite, but so are its iconic sliders. Capitalizing on that signature size—and the red-hot waffles trend—the Columbus, Ohio-based chain launched Belgian Waffle breakfast sandwiches in April.
1. Right to the source
Seeking a distinctive waffle for the LTO, the chain looked abroad. “Belgium is known for its waffles and has one of the highest densities of castles,” says Jamie Richardson, White Castle vice president. “That tie-in with our brand made it a natural to use Belgian waffles.” The team found a supplier in Brussels able to produce a Brussels-style waffle (known as Belgian waffles to U.S. consumers) to White Castle’s specs.
2. How sweet it is
Authenticity, flavor, texture and size all were important criteria. “The waffle had to have the right level of sweetness to pair well with the savory taste of eggs, bacon, ham or sausage,” says Richardson. A hint of vanilla does the trick. As far as texture goes, the supplier is producing the slider-size waffles on old-fashioned gas-fired waffle irons to create a traditional crispy, irregular edge and a bit of crunch.
3. Layers of flavor
The waffles are shipped frozen direct from the supplier to each unit and toasted to order. Scrambled fresh eggs and American cheese go on next. Guests have the choice of a sausage patty, ham or bacon—all of which already were in inventory. “It’s a pleasing contrast of crisp texture, hot eggs and melted cheese,” says Richardson.
4. Chicken for breakfast
Breakfast customers also can order a Chicken and Waffle sandwich ($2.79), which is served all day. The Southern-inspired recipe features a breaded chicken breast, Belgian waffles, creamy gravy and a sprinkle of bacon crumbles.
5. Morning win
Several waffles were tested on consumers during the R&D process. “We learned that texture was very important,” says Richardson. “Consumers didn’t want soggy, limp waffles. And they had to be a cut above supermarket products.” A number were nixed. Chicken patties also were a no-go; consumers prefer chicken breast fillets. And variety scored points—the rationale for creating a few different sandwiches.
The signature slider size remains a priority at White Castle. Going forward, “we are looking at intensely flavorful lunch sandwiches that are shareable and will take you to other parts of the world,” was all Richardson would reveal.