toasted bread and toppings ready to be assembled for sandwiches

5 Menu-Ready Sandwich Opportunities

Sandwiches, the original handheld, offer a prime opportunity for creative builds customers will want to sink their teeth into. 

Sandwiches hold a lot of opportunity, all nestled invitingly between two slices of bread. The ultimate in familiarity, they also are the ultimate in versatility, welcoming all sorts of flavor trends into the fold. “Menuing unique, trend-forward sandwiches is a highly effective way to increase sales and promote menu differentiation,” says Gerry Ludwig, CEC, Gordon Food Service Corporate Executive Chef. He pinpoints five opportunities in the sandwich category, all with craveable, adaptable builds ready.

1. Global handhelds

“Chefs are becoming more innovative in the sandwich category, exploring the different sandwich profiles around the world,” Ludwig says. The real breakthrough, of course, can be traced back to Roy Choi and his food truck, Kogi Taco, which hit the streets in 2008 with its wildly creative mashup of Korean flavors and Mexican tacos. He gave everyone permission to do the same thing with a variety of handhelds—Latin tortas and Asian banh mi sandwiches. Today, the innovation continues, offering big opportunity for menu distinction. One “new” profile that’s poised to emerge on the scene is the num pang, a sandwich that the proprietor of Num Pang in New York calls a Cambodian version of a banh mi, served warm instead of cold, and starring ingredients like spiced pork belly, roasted chicken “chimi” or roasted cauliflower.

Menu examples:
Tamarind Pulled Pork Torta:pickled heirloom carrot, toasted sesame seed, mint and cilantro-basil crema—Barrio, Chicago

Bacon Banh Mi: Bacon-wrapped pork sausage, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, cilantro, lime, jalapeño, spicy mayo, fish sauce and furikake—Sumo Dog, Los Angeles 

Pork + Pickle Banh Mi: Chile-mustard pork belly, Asian pickles, cilantro, Koji mayo, ciabatta—Make Sandwich, New York

2. Meatless sandwiches

Thanks to the sustaining trend in veg-centricity, where chefs coax out beautiful flavors through aggressive cooking and judicious use of savory protein elements, consumers are now embracing vegetables in new and unexpected places, including as the stars of sandwiches. “This may be the category where I’m seeing the greatest amount of growth,” Ludwig says. “Chefs are experimenting a lot, roasting, sautéing, shaving vegetables, and really focusing on eye-turning plate presentation.”

Menu examples:
Shaved Vegetable Sandwich: Cucumber, fennel, carrot, radish, red onion, avocado, tomato, Maldon salt and sourdough—Lunetta All Day, Los Angeles

Hippie Sandwich: Green mash, avocado, cucumber, sunflower sprouts, Green Goddess, feta—Friends & Family, Los Angeles

Spicy Cauliflower: Cabot clothbound cheddar, sauerkraut, sambal, whole wheat and a Green Goddess wedge—Sunday In Brooklyn, New York

3. Dutch Crunch

“We discovered this bread in California during our street-level research five years ago,” Ludwig says. Gordon Food Service brought it to market and a lot of operators now use it as their signature bread. Very similar to a ciabatta roll, the Dutch Crunch roll features a “cracked earth” crust that yields a sweet, savory, aromatic crunch.

Menu ideas:
Pulled Bacon on Dutch Crunch: red slaw, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, pickled jalapeños, refried baked beans, chili mayonnaise

Flying Pig on Dutch Crunch: fire-braised pork, red onion jam, spicy mustard sauce, housemade B&B pickles

Crispy Pork Dutch Crunch: panko-breaded pulled pork, pickled cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, bistro sauce

4. Churrascos

“We’re flagging this opportunity for our customers who might have missed it the first time around, and for new customers since we first talked about churrasco sandwiches a few years back,” Ludwig says. This is a single menu item discovered at the chain Island Burger in New York, which calls itself “Home of the Churrasco.” The sandwich there saw a double-lobe boneless skinless chicken breast in a wet marinade, char-grilled, then loaded with flavorful toppings. It boasts bold flavor layerings unlike anything seen before, and holds lots of potential for interpretation.

Menu ideas:
Chilean Chacarero: Beef steak, breaded green beans, tomato, avocado, Muenster, cilantro mayonnaise, French bun

Baja Churrasco: Lemon pepper chicken, muenster cheese, charred tomatoes, pickled cucumbers, onion tanglers, chive mayonnaise, French bun

Churrasco Chimichurri: Ancho chicken, Brie, charred tomato, chimichurri sauce, avocado, pickled carrots, garlic mayonnaise, onion roll

5. Braised meat sandwiches

The momentum behind this opportunity is that the meat is tender, indulgent, and craveable. “We tried to capitalize on the successful iterations we’ve seen in the marketplace over the years and put them into menu-ready recipes for our customers,” Ludwig says.

Menu ideas:
Braised Chicken Ratatouille Sandwich: eggplant, zucchini, Roma tomatoes, peppers, whipped goat cheese, Dijon-Sriracha mayonnaise, Dutch Crunch roll

Braised Lamb Sandwich: chermoula carrots, goat cheese spread, kohlrabi slaw, ciabatta roll 

Braised Asian Pork Naanwhich: pickled cabbage, ginger mayonnaise, sweet Sriracha, cucumbers, cilantro

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