Building a sandwich that sells

The layer-by-layer lowdown on this lunch favorite.

By 
Dana Moran, Managing Editor

sandwich sriracha

When it comes to portability and customization at lunchtime, it’s pretty tough to beat out the mighty sandwich. Jorge Noriega, research and development chef at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Dining and Catering Services, says sandwiches at his campus restaurants have a take rate between 60 and 70 percent. But are his diners buying into the super popular low-carb diet and avoiding these offerings? Not even close.

“When we put a sandwich in, the first thing our students look to is what kind of bread we’re using,” he says. As diners’ tastes evolve and mature, here are ways to add flavor to every layer.

Condiments

With $80 million of Sriracha sauce selling in 2014 alone, according to the Los Angeles Times, it’s no surprise that spicy and blended sauces are a huge trend. “International is really where it’s at, different mayos and different spreads,” says Kennesaw State Executive Director for Culinary and Hospitality Services and Chef de Cuisine Gary Coltek. A July 2014 Datassential study noted aioli, savory jams, hollandaise, schmears and chimichurri among the trending sauces.

Bread

“The days of brioche are pretty much gone,” says Coltek. Three in 10 consumers say they enjoy specialty breads for sandwiches, according to a 2014 Technomic report. That includes options such as focaccia, naan, ciabatta, Chinese bao, crepes and flatbread.

Fruits and vegetables

The University of California schools have committed to 100 percent sustainable dining by 2020, and Noriega says his students already are actively advocating for more local, sustainable produce on campus.

At Kennesaw State, Coltek launched a vegetable-of-the-day sandwich, featuring seasonal, grilled produce sourced from his farmers. He’s also using Asian pears on a pork sandwich.

Cheese

The Food Network names semi-soft, flavorful cheeses such as burrata, fontina, Gruyere and Brie as its No. 4 sandwich and salad trend for 2015. Patrick McElroy, campus executive chef for Bon Appetit at Washington University in St. Louis, says he sources dairy products including fresh mozzarella and aged cheddar from local farmers.

Meats

While a huge variety of proteins are on the market, turkey reigns in a 2014 Datassential survey—81 percent of respondents had eaten it cold within the past two weeks. Instead of using toppings to cover up the taste of a plain turkey breast, Coltek marinates his for 24 to 48 hours to “turn it into something that really has some flavor to it.” Meanwhile, McElroy’s commissary chef, Dan LeGrand, produces from-scratch proteins like sausages on-site.

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