3 ways to clean up your chicken sandwich game

Pierce Chicken

From Pierce Chicken.

Chicken sandwiches, versatile, tasty and filling, are a common favorite when it comes to lunch menus, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down—the category within noncommercial foodservice has grown nearly 8% over the past five years, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor. The popularity of this dish lends well to noncommercial segments—and operators have ample opportunity to customize their offerings to consumer preferences.

Handheld and portable foods are on the rise, perhaps due to consumers’ increasingly busy schedules. In fact, according to Technomic’s recent Sandwich report, consumers eat an average of 3.7 sandwiches per week, with 72% saying they’ve purchased a chicken sandwich away from home in the past two months.

With stats like these, it’s good business for operators to offer their twist on the classic chicken sandwich, and doing so can be a great way to differentiate themselves among competition. Check out these three ways to create chicken sandwiches customers crave.

Follow better-for-you trends

Classic buttermilk fried chicken might be one of the most popular preparations when it comes to chicken sandwiches on menus, but for consumers looking for healthier, lighter and clean-eating options, grilled chicken can be a great alternative. And because grilled or baked chicken are the perfect canvas for bold flavors, they’re an ideal option for the 48% of consumers (according to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry report) who say they would be interested in trying chicken entrees with new or unique flavors. Spice blends like jerk or Indian-style spices can impart a lot of flavor without the fat that frying adds.

Additional flavor trends for chicken sandwiches, according to MenuMonitor, that operators can take into consideration include:

  • Gruyere (+4.4%): Add this cheese onto sandwiches where swiss would feel at home.
  • Sriracha (+4.3%): Kick buffalo chicken up another notch and use sriracha sauce or blend it into mayonnaise for a deliciously spicy aioli spread for sandwiches.
  • Sesame (+4.3%): Riff on popular flavor trends with sesame-pulled chicken sandwiches topped with pickled shredded carrots, cabbage, and a spicy aioli

With flavorful preparation methods used to create tasty, healthful menu options, those customers who are looking for something cleaner to eat won’t feel like they’re missing out. And since 71% of consumers say they think that low-fat foods are slightly or much healthier, operators stand to benefit from offering lower-fat options such as grilled chicken sandwiches.

Appeal to consumers’ desire for natural, healthy foods

Chicken is often considered a healthy choice for meals, and as more research uncovers information about hormones and antibiotics in meat, consumers are flocking toward all-natural items. According to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry report, 72% of consumers say they think all-natural poultry is healthier, while 50% say they think it tastes better, too. And what’s more, 41% would be willing to pay more for chicken or turkey that’s labeled “natural,” making it a profit-booster for sandwiches that feature these clean proteins.

While operators may be menuing these foods, if it’s not spelled out, customers might not know about it—be sure to call out natural and antibiotic-free proteins on menus and in cafeteria lines, to help customers make the best choices for their diets.

Highlight quality for a boost in interest 

Consumers don’t just want good food—they demand it. In fact, Technomic’s Sandwich report finds that about 79% of consumers are willing to pay more for sandwiches that feature premium or high-quality ingredients. Similarly, 84% of consumers say that they consider the quality of meat to be important when creating a great sandwich. Knowing that customers want quality ingredients makes it easy for operators to plan a menu—include quality, premium ingredients such as all-natural chicken and elevated toppings like specialty cheeses, housemade sauces and produce like avocados.

While the humble chicken sandwich might not seem like it could help boost business, the truth is that since it’s so popular, operators stand to benefit from upgrading it. By catering to trending flavor preferences and ensuring all-natural and quality ingredients are used, operators can create a stronger menu that their customers will come back again and again for.

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