4 Keys to Elevating Your Sandwiches

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Labor shortages and supply snarls are still complicating restaurant operations in a massive way. Many chefs are struggling with day-to-day operations, leaving little time for innovation. 

Further, the pandemic has forced operators to find new ways of delivering a great dining experience. Consider that the NPD Group reports that overall digital ordering increased 117 percent between 2020 and 2022. This means all menu items must now be as good after an off-premises journey as they would be in the restaurant itself. 

This confluence of factors has chefs and operators turning to an old standby in order to remain innovative and profitable: the sandwich, which checks a lot of boxes. For one, they can be made across all three dayparts. Secondly, sandwiches have mass appeal—to consumers and operators alike. 

“Everybody loves sandwiches,” says Sam Weikum, senior brand manager for the deli meat portfolio of Hormel Foodservice. “Patrons love the grab-and-go nature of sandwiches. But it also continues to be a go-to for foodservice operators because you can take several ingredients you already have in house and turn them into a great sandwich. 

That doesn't mean any-old sandwich will do. Diners are looking for something elevated, says Nick Jones, business development chef for Hormel Foodservice, or something that would be difficult for them to execute at home. “You can create something great without adding additional strain to your operation.” Jones says. “There are a ton of little tricks that will help with that.” 

The rest of this slideshow is dedicated to four tips and tricks to help elevate a sandwich menu in a way that will have mass appeal—without breaking the bank on labor or food costs.

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The Bread

While many think a lot about what is going to go into a sandwich, some skimp on the bread. This is a mistake, Jones says. He always opts for a quality bread that will do justice to the rest of the sandwich. 

“For me, the bread is 50 percent of a sandwich,” Jones says. “You’ll get a lot of mileage out of that.”

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‘Tis the Season(ing)

Whether it’s salt, pepper, herbs, vinegar—Weikum has a message for those looking to make an elevated sandwich. 

“Don’t under season!” Weikum says. “I truly believe this—the seasoning is the difference between whether a deli sandwich is good or great. You really can’t hide anything on a sandwich. Every component is so important and has to work together. People expect high-quality ingredients, and the seasoning is a huge part of that.”

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Go Global

There are certain sandwiches that are never going anywhere. For example, the BLT, the Grilled Cheese, the Reuben. Jones also points to the Hulu show “The Bear” as having inspired a resurgence of the traditional Italian Beef. These classics are still very popular with diners, but sandwiches are also a great place to showcase global flavors that can be executed in a consistent and repeatable fashion. 

“Global sandwiches are really having a moment,” Jones says. “Cubans, Tortas, global po’ boys, lobster rolls—really, any flavors and cuisines that are trending can be showcased in a sandwich, even without a ton of kitchen help.”

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Meat the Moment

Not every sandwich requires deli meat, but those that do require the right deli meat in order to achieve an elevated offering. Hormel Foodservice has a portfolio of deli-meat brands that fit a variety of needs—from pre-sliced packaged meats to things like dry-cured salami, or whole-muscle ham. 

“Our deli portfolio is very well established,” Weikum says. “We have a very strong retail presence around the country, but between COLUMBUS®, APPLEGATE®, NATURAL CHOICE® and HORMEL® Deli we also have options for any type of operator. These are high quality deli meats and our direct sales team is really great about matching up people with the brand and products that are right for them.” 

For more information on Hormel Foodservice’s line of deli meats, visit Hormel Foodservice’s website.