A Sneak Peek into the Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report

The Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report identifies the emerging sandwich concepts that are dominating the segment and reveals some interesting trends in menus and consumer interest.

Although we’ve seen a downward trend of 6.8 percent, year over year, in overall restaurant traffic based on social media mentions, the 300 sandwich innovator brands have seen a traffic increase of 3.4 percent, according to Foodable Labs.

The report, which is slated to release sometime in July, will provide an analysis exploring the sandwich segment and trends. The segment has seen an upward trend as far as traffic in social media mentions is concerned, which is a great statement for the newcomers that are dominating the market.

It may have something to do with the move towards brand transparency and the use of higher-quality ingredients. In fact, Food Quality is one of the highest ranked sentiment scores at 78.9 points for the Top 50 Sandwich Innovator concepts since the younger demographics are gravitating more towards higher quality and convenient food options. This research also points to the increased popularity of higher-quality ingredient sides, like chips. Snack brands like Miss Vickie’s, are leading the way in this segment, further advancing the high-quality ingredients trend.

“Overall, for both operators and consumers, we complement the sandwich experience with a genuinely good product that delivers great crunch and taste,” said Tom Stingelin, Miss Vickie's Brand Manager. The Miss Vickie’s brand, which was established in 1987, aims “to keep things simple: delicious flavors from the farm and no artificial flavors or preservatives.”

Brands like Local Foods and East Hampton Sandwich Co. are just two concepts out of the 50 that will be featured in the Top Sandwich Innovator Report. To provide you a sneak-peek, Foodable selected them to see what makes these eateries stand out:

Local Foods

This Houston-based, gourmet sandwich concept opened its first shop in 2011 and now has grown to have five locations throughout the city. Ingredients bought at their peak from local farmers’ markets dictate the menu at Local Foods—intentionally helping the brand to stay true to its name.

All five shops offer an array of elevated, scratch-made sandwiches, salads, soups and sides that are intended to be healthy and affordable. Each location, though, has a differentiator that shines at dinner time. While one offers a seafood counter and another offers a rotisserie, other locations offer a pizza or a Josper charcoal oven making it easier to have diverse, chef-inspired menus across the organization.

At the time of the concept’s inception, sandwiches were not a go-to food item in the city of Houston, but Local Foods has changed that, according to Houston’s CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler. In a podcast interview, Dylan Murray, owner and chef-partner of Local Foods, said this about why he thought Local Foods resonated well with consumers: “Well, we hope the quality is very high, but mostly that it’s familiar. I mean, everybody eats sandwiches in this country of some form or another. It’s the kind of food that you can eat regularly. I mean, we see our clientele much more than once a month, sometimes multiple times a week. It’s at a sweet price-point. It makes it accessible to many types of folks...”

Local Foods offers that notion of familiarity through its sandwiches but elevates them to a point where you can’t easily recreate them at home. They also offer the option to turn those sandwiches into salads by dropping the bread, which they source from Houston’s Slow Dough Bread Company, taking it a step further, health-wise.

East Hampton Sandwich Co.

East Hampton Sandwich Co. was founded in 2012 by Hunter Pond with the intention of fulfilling a void in the Dallas, Texas gourmet sandwich marketplace. In just six years, the brand has grown to 9 locations and will be opening its tenth this month.

East Hampton prides itself in offering handcrafted, premium ingredients; including house-made proteins, sauces, and potato chips. With sandwich menu items like their Lobster Roll, featuring a quarter pound of Atlantic lobster paired with a soup like the New England clam chowder, it is easy to see why this unique coastal-themed café has been such a hit in a place like Texas. Alongside the concept’s signature sandwiches, all locations also offer the same options featuring chicken, turkey, pork, seafood, or beef in the form of a low carb wrap or salad.

Bringing the upscale sandwich element to a fast casual atmosphere may have propelled this company forward. In an editorial interview with Dallas Observer after Pond was named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” he said this about why he chose to create a “sandwich restaurant” out of all the restaurant concepts in the world: “The core of East Hampton is filling the void between Jimmy John's and getting a really decadent sandwich at an upscale American grill like Houston's or Nick & Sam's. We're not a standard sub sandwich shop and we're capitalizing on this void in the marketplace. That was the idea behind East Hampton. There needed to be a place where you could find 10 or 12 completely different sandwiches that were really refined.”

Something that both Local Foods and East Hampton have in common is the fact that the name of their restaurants set an expectation for their consumers before they even walk through the door. “When you think of the Hamptons, you think high-quality. And that's what our sandwiches are. They're just a little bit better than regular sub chains,” said Pond about the name for his company to the Dallas Observer.

Be on the lookout for the Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report coming to Foodable in July.