The true origin of the sandwich is murky, but one popular myth points to English nobleman John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who, during a lengthy card-playing spree in the 1700s, requested a meal that he could eat without getting his hands dirty—or interrupting his game. In 20th-century America, sandwiches grew to be associated with different regions of the country: grinders, heroes, hoagies, po’ boys, submarines, torpedoes. In fact, the quintessential American meals—hamburgers and hot dogs—are in fact forms of the sandwich: a filling between bread halves. Lately, restaurants and fast food outlets across the nation are revamping the definition of the word by introducing breadless “sandwiches” (i.e., KFC’s Double Down, with chicken breasts replacing the bread), placing fillings between two donuts or waffles, stacking them sky-high, and tossing everything but the kitchen sink into them.
The history and continuing evolution of the sandwich, of course, speaks to everything that is desirable about this food category: It is portable, quick and easy to make and eat, inexpensive, and can take on seemingly endless variations. No wonder the sandwich has long been a favorite the world over—the British Sandwich Association reports that Britain alone saw more than 3 billion sandwiches purchased from retail and restaurant outlets in one year. For pizzerias, however, the sandwich also provides an alternative, especially for lunchtime patrons, to pizza, as Domino’s (dominos.com) found when it introduced its line of oven-baked sandwiches in 2008. When customers are on the go or have a mere 30 minutes for lunch, this menu item, with its amazing versatility, can satisfy both guests and your bottom line.
Bread With Benefits
Sandwiches offer your customers an option that, especially in a rocky economy, is an inexpensive alternative, especially during certain dayparts. “We offered sandwiches from the beginning, because people wanted another choice besides pizza, especially at lunch,” says David Smith, executive chef at 900 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria (900degrees.com) in Manchester, New Hampshire. “Our 14” pizzas have a higher price point, so a sandwich allows them to come in for a $7.95 lunch that includes a side item.” The pizzeria offers sandwiches only at lunch because its one oven became too crowded at dinner with sandwiches, pizzas and pastas going in and out, and because they proved more popular with the lunch crowd.
Jeff Varasano, owner and operator of Varasano’s Pizzeria (varasanos.com) in Atlanta, also wanted to offer a wallet-friendly option alongside his more expensive pizzas. “For us, deciding to offer sandwiches was about hitting a different price point, because we do a Neapolitan style pizza, which is hard to do in a smaller size and doesn’t last long when sold by the slice,” he explains. “Our basic pies go for $11 to $15, and we wanted to hit a lunch price point in the range of $7 to $8, plus drink.” He also adds that his personal love of sandwiches and the culture of delis in New York influenced his decision; the four sandwiches he offers—San Gennaro’s Sausage & Pepper, Italian Deli, Caprese and Sopressata—are ones he made at home himself for years (the sausage-and-pepper, however, has proven to be the bestseller).
Hannah Erich, manager at Warrior Gourmet Pizza and Ice Cream (warriordriveinandpizza.com) in Ontario, Ohio, says that customers also like the quickness and convenience of a sandwich. “A lot of people get them for lunch; we have a drive-through, and even though we make them to order, sandwiches are faster than pizza,” she notes. The pizzeria entices customers with a daily special that features one of its sandwiches (more than a dozen are on the everyday menu) and includes a drink and French fries.