Some convenience-store operators continue to make concerted efforts to boost foodservice programs, aiming to generate, and to some extent replace, profit that grows increasingly difficult to achieve from sales of fuel and tobacco.
Many have made headway: Prepared food sales at convenience stores increased 13% in 2011, according to data collected by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
Sandwiches are a staple of many foodservice programs, in and out of the convenience-store channel. Technomic, a research and consulting firm that specializes in foodservice, notes, for example, that sandwiches are the cornerstone of lunch and dinner menus at limited- and full-service restaurants. Here, according to Technomic, is how those establishments make and market sandwiches, and how consumers tend to respond:
At both limited- and full-service restaurants, sandwiches are offered more than any other entrée, the research firm says. More consumers report purchasing sandwiches away from home today versus just two years ago due in large part to [restaurant] operators' innovative responses to consumer demands for lower prices, greater variety, fresher fare, flexible portions and healthier items. While the industry as a whole lost 4,500 restaurants in 2011, the limited-service sandwich segment grew by 800 units, spurred by Subway, which netted 872 new franchised restaurants in the U.S. focusing on healthy, fresh, and lower-priced sandwiches.
“Today’s consumer expects greater customization and broader sandwich options,” says Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. “Trends in portion flexibility, variety, freshness and ‘shareability’ have come to the forefront of this segment. Shareable options give operators a chance to go beyond the standard menu and try new ethnic sandwiches. Often these ethnic and next-level sandwiches, which focus on gourmet ingredients and toppings, are introduced through mini sandwiches or wraps. Giving consumers smaller, shareable portion options can be considered as healthier with less calories. This trend shows no signs of slowing down.”
To help operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry more effectively identify opportunities for growth and gain a competitive advantage, Technomic developed a “Sandwich Consumer Trend Report.”
- 41 percent of consumers ages 25-34 would like more restaurants to offer mini-sandwiches that can be eaten as a snack or light meal, up 15 percentage points since 2010.
- Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches continue to take off. This simple American sandwich staple is getting an update, as whole concepts are being built on the appeal of high-end, high-quality grilled cheese.
- Specialty breads offer operators and suppliers a strong avenue for sandwich differentiation. Focaccia, ciabatta, and sourdough have seen modest increases on menus.
- Gluten free flatbread, bun and wrap options are becoming increasingly prevalent.
- More consumers are purchasing grab-and-go sandwiches, reflecting a greater shift toward increased convenience and prepared foods.
Technomic’s Sandwich Consumer Trend Report examines consumer behavior, preferences and attitudes regarding sandwiches based on survey results from 1,500 consumers. For this report, Technomic asked consumers to include breakfast, deli, salad, and sub sandwiches, burgers, burritos, hot dogs, and wraps in their definition of a sandwich. The Menu Insights section utilizes Technomic’s MenuMonitor online database to provide an in-depth look at how leading and emerging chain operators present and position sandwiches on their menus.