Guest Column - April 2006
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Hot Profits: Expanding your menu with heated sandwiches

Food Service and Concessions

By Paul Mueller

Today's consumers are looking for healthier, higher quality options when making their food choices. The desire for fresh, low-fat foods has driven the fresh sandwich category for the last several years, and this trend does not appear to be slowing. The sandwich trend has been a major focus for many operators in the food-service industry from major chain restaurants to small, mom-and-pop delis. Studies show in the past few years, about 80 percent of the nation's top restaurant chains have added sandwiches to their menus, and as much as 40 percent of new food-service dollars generated in the industry have come from sandwich sales. Today, restaurants specializing in sandwiches are prevalent throughout neighborhoods, with sandwich shops popping up on every street corner.

So, why are sandwiches perceived as a healthy alternative? There are several reasons. The first is what some in the industry have coined "The Jared Factor." The Subway chain of restaurants introduced commercials featuring a man named Jared Fogle who lost a significant amount of weight by replacing his regular lunch and dinner meals with Subway sandwiches. The early "Jared" commercials showed images of Jared Fogle before and after his weight loss. In today's commercials, Jared is usually comparing grams of fat in a burger vs. a Subway sandwich. These commercials continue to spur interest for consumers in replacing the traditional fast-food burger with a sandwich that is typically lower in fat and calories and perceived as the healthy choice.

The second reason sandwiches are popular is the freshness perception. Analysts believe customers who watch their food being prepared feel it's fresher and contains higher quality ingredients.

A third factor to consider are the varieties of freshly baked breads offered in sandwich restaurants. Some chains offer a variety of breads for their sandwiches such as honey-wheat rolls, Italian herbs and cheese, rosemary and onion focaccia, ciabatta, and tomato basil bread. Customers again perceive this as a higher quality meal vs. other fast food options and are often willing to pay a premium price for sandwiches.

Lastly, sandwiches are very portable, making it an excellent meal option for the on-the-go consumer. Many are willing to pay a little more for foods that are easy to eat while on the go that will not add extra inches to their waistline.