The Sandwich Recession: The Rise and Fall of Fast Casual Sandwich Sectors

Photo courtesy of McAlister's Deli

Fast casual sandwich sectors have shifted greatly over the years. Lately, we’ve seen a decrease in traditional fast food brands due to the new, healthier concepts, making it essential that the sandwich concept to get onboard. And thankfully, today there are sandwich companies that take pride in the locally-sourced ingredients it serves, ensuring the customer gets the best food possible. 

There are a few key players doing something right in the sandwich business. We’ve checked out the fast casual chains in our Foodable Labs’ data to learn which three were performing the best and why.

#1 McAlister’s Deli

Photo courtesy of McAlister's Deli

This fast casual restaurant company came about to the Mississippi area back in 1989 and has since expanded all over the country. With more than 400 locations, McAlister’s Deli isn’t doing too shabby and has the numbers to show for it - hence being our one in the Foodable Labs’ data. But that doesn’t mean things have been that easy for the sandwich giant. 

The chain has fluctuated in our data since the beginning of 2017, holding steady during January through April, then took a slight nosedive in the May and June. But July appears to be a good month for McAlister’s and it could have something to do with its new offerings of Lemonade Tea and black cherry spinach salad (a healthy option for those trying to stay away from carbs). 

Of course, having so many menu options doesn’t hurt either - which is something McAlister’s is known for.

“We bring delicious and iconic flavors of traditional delis and deliver them to you with our signature approach: handcrafted, fresh, high quality ingredients, large portions and always made-to-order just for you,” says the company’s website.

#2 Jersey Mike’s Subs

Photo courtesy of Jersey Mike's Subs

Coming in second place, this counter-service spot originated in New Jersey and is now found throughout the nation, serving up its monster sandwiches at decent prices. Known for stacking its sammies with all the meat you can handle, Jersey Mike’s Subs are not for the faint eater.

The reason this hotspot is so popular might have a lot to do with how each item is prepared, which the company discusses on its website: 

“We carefully consider every aspect of what we do – every slice, every sandwich, every store – we provide our customers with sustenance and substance too.”

These guys uses only high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients that is paired with freshly baked bread and sliced meats that are cooked on-sight, making its guests feeling good about what they eat.

#3 Jimmy John's

Recipe courtesy of Jimmy John's

Craving for quick, on-the-go club sandwiches? Chances are when those cravings hit, you’re hitting a local Jimmy John’s - and for good reason.

The company prides itself on its “from-scratch food” and fresh meat that is “sliced by hand daily” because it knows what the customer wants: quality food prepared by people who care.

“You care about where your food comes from, and we do too,” says the company’s website. “We demand that of our suppliers. They go to great lengths to make it happen. Our stores are locally owned and operated by people who care. These Jimmy John's owners create jobs and are giving partners in your community. Whether you visit one of our Jimmy John's locations or order for delivery, our hand-crafted sandwiches are served to you by people who take the time to do it right.”

And sure, we know the subs are good but we lets not forget the iconic potato chips that help satisfy the hungry eaters. With five different flavors - Regular, Barbecue, Jalapeño, Salt & Vinegar, and Thinny - there’s an option for anyone no matter what appetite or sandwich that will be paired alongside the chips.

And since Jimmy John’s offers both delivery and pick-up, enjoying one of their clubs or subs is easy even for those who aren’t looking to leave their couch (or dine in). Catering also helps this company bring in even more clientele, with choice of individual sandwiches or party platters that can be customized to your liking. 

National Top 25 Restaurant Rankings

And while McAlister’s Deli might have beat Jersey Mike’s Sub in our Foodable Labs’s data, it’s not the case when looking at our National Top 25 Restaurant rankings. Jersey Mike’s Subs outweighs McAlister’s Deli, ranking in at 12 compared to its competitor that hit the 15spot. Interestingly enough, none of the top ten sandwich spots in our Foodable Labs’s data ranked on the top ten in our National Top 25 Restaurant rankings.