Operations

Fast casual tackles supply chain issues, rising costs with staff recipe contest

Au Bon Pain's “Sandwich Madness” challenged team members to create new menu items using existing SKUs.
Au Bon Pain contest winners
Corporate Chef Anne Riley (center) with contest winners Michael Thomas (left) and Genisis Santos; photo courtesy of Au Bon Pain

Au Bon Pain held its first-ever “Sandwich Madness” contest, challenging its 3,000 employees across 119 locations to create recipes using only ingredients already in its supply chain. These existing SKUs have been curated to keep supplies flowing and costs contained. 

“Inflation and supply chain issues challenge all restaurants,” Au Bon Pain Corporate Chef Anne Riley said in a statement. “By tapping our employees and their creativity, we can offer new, craveable sandwiches without straining resources.”

The contest engaged the fast casual’s sandwich makers, bakers and cafe staffs, fostering team building along with menu innovation. 

On Tuesday, two recipes were chosen as winners from the 45 submissions: The Ranchero Wrap and The Cleveland Fireside Egg Sandwich. 

The Ranchero Wrap, served warm, is filled with marinated barbecue chicken, a three-cheese blend, red bell peppers, tomatoes, red onions, arugula, ranch dressing and chipotle mayo on a whole wheat tortilla. Genisis Santos and Laura Lopez, employees at a franchised location in New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, submitted the winning idea.

The Cleveland Fireside Egg Sandwich is a breakfast sandwich layered with eggs, hardwood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, spinach and chipotle mayo on a ciabatta. Michael Thomas and Michellica Burson from one of the chain’s corporate cafes in Cleveland, created the sandwich.

Au Bon Pain plans to feature both recipes as LTOs in late 2022. In addition, each of the winners received a cash prize and trophy. 

“Our teams responded with such excitement and creativity,” said Riley. “Seeing both corporate-owned and franchise cafes enthusiastically collaborate made for a fun competition.”   

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