August is National Sandwich Month—an entire 31 days to honor the brilliant realization that delicious combinations of foods can be easily enjoyed handheld-style. Eighty-three percent of consumers have an affinity for sandwiches2; while at the same time, 35% of consumers claim in the next two years they are likely to eat more new menu items (things they’ve never tried before).3 This month, we’re hoping you’ll accept the challenge of taking your sandwich and handheld offerings to the next level. The familiarity of these items combined with introductions of new elements make it a great space to play. If you’re getting the itch to rejuvenate your sandwich menu, here are four jumping-off points to get the creative juices flowing.
Hold the Meat: Surely you saw this suggestion coming with the explosion of plant-based products hitting restaurant menus and grocery store shelves. Whether you go with a meat analog or a whole-food variety such as mushrooms, you’re sure to satisfy guests looking to decrease meat consumption. Try this Grilled Portabello Mushroom Torta for a plant-forward version of the Mexican classic, or find more south-of-the-border inspiration from this Mexican-Style Grilled Cheese sandwich, paired perfectly with Tomato-Mole Soup. When it comes to naming your new items, utilize “vegetable-based” and “plant-based” in descriptors as these rate better with consumers versus terms like “meat-free.”4
Chicken Beyond the Grill: Fried chicken sandwiches have had quite the year. The leading chicken sandwich chains all saw positive growth over the course of the pandemic5 and roughly 65% of the U.S. population ordered a breaded chicken sandwich from a QSR over the six months spanning late 2020 into early 2021.6 Quality ingredients and a unique sauce can make this standard menu item stand out as 59% of consumers are interested in seeing more premium chicken sandwiches.7 Our spin on the chicken sandwich uses Custom Culinary® PanRoast® Chicken Flavored Gravy Mix within its savory breading and gravy topping and capitalizes on the growth of chicken biscuits sandwiches on the menu (+44% since 2017).8 For the ultimate tender and juicy patty, consider thigh meat; thigh as a sandwich protein has grown 43.5% on the menu over the past four years.9
Unique Carriers: Giving the carrier as much thought as the ingredients inside makes the entire build a standout. High-quality and interesting carriers bring entirely new elements to handhelds in terms of flavor, texture, and portability. Worldly dishes give us a variety of inspiration for carriers. Jian Bings are a Chinese street food, utilizing a savory crepe-like wrap to encase ingredients, including a flat wonton for an extra crispy element. From the Fujian region of China comes the bao bun, a fluffy and airy bun that typically holds pork like in this sweet and spicy pork bao. The thicker nature of pita bread makes it a sturdy and portable carrier for gyro ingredients. This Al Pastor Gyro is a fusion of Latin flavors and Grecian formats.
Asian-Inspired Handhelds: We just mentioned a few of China’s great handheld contributions to the culinary world, but the inspiration doesn’t stop there. As we focus on Asian cuisine in this month’s top trend, we hope you’ll find the influence as exhilarating as we do. The banh-mi is native to Vietnam and famous for its mixture of sour, spicy, and cooling sensations between an airy baguette. Try our version that incorporates Korean bulgogi and gochujang. More Korean flavors are found in this Korean-Style BBQ Tempeh Wrap complete with kimchi vegetables and Custom Culinary® Korean-Style BBQ Sauce. Another meatless option takes classic northern Chinese moo shu and trades the pork for jackfruit in our Jackfruit Moo Shu.
Maybe entirely new sandwich builds aren’t in the cards right now. If not, perhaps you can conjure up a great sauce that works perfectly with animal proteins, meatless patties, and even French fries. A selection of sauces opens the door for customization. Customization is key as only 31% of consumers ordered their last sandwich from a restaurant as is, without customization.10 We’re here to help if you’re in need of ideas. And for daily inspiration, be sure to follow us on your favorite platform. Find us on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook in hopes some scrolling spurs your next menu hit.
Until next time, stay true to the food!
Brand Marketing Director
Custom Culinary, Inc.
1, 2, 8, 9
Datassential SNAP data, August 2021
Datassential, Two Steps Forward, One Step Back Webinar, July 2021
Technomic, Industry Insights, March 2021
Restaurant Business Online, Comfort-Seeking Consumers Flocked to Chicken Chains in 2020, May 2021
QSR Magazine, The Chicken Sandwich Wars Will Ignite Again in 2021, April 2021
Datassential, Sandwich Keynote Report, December 2020