When it came time to open her first pizzeria, Loriann Sorce carried over one staple from her past restaurant ventures: sandwiches. She understood the value of sandwiches for the rounding-out of her menu, which trickled down to a healthier bottom line.
"Sandwiches give customers options," said Sorce, chef-owner of Mount Arlington, N.J.- Pomodoro's. "If a group of people come in, there will be something for everyone. Our salads are very popular, but people aren't into the Atkin's Diet like they used to be, which is good for sandwich sales. Sandwiches definitely play a role in the bottom line every month."
They also play a role in overall customer expectation. Sandwiches have become part and parcel of menu offerings from virtually every restaurant segment. Pizza chains such as Michigan-based Mancino's Grinders and Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs have capitalized on sandwiches' popularity. But the bar has been raised in recent years thanks to higher-quality offerings from the fast-casual segment.
"Expectations for quality are higher than before thanks to fast casual, including sandwich menu items," said Liz Hertz, marketing manager for Burke Corp., manufacturer of fully cooked meat products. "This means there's a need for premium items on your menu. This can be something that's healthful, or something that's interesting. This lets you add some adventure or interest to the menu."
This fact isn't lost on Pomodoro's, which offers a variety of sandwiches including its top-selling Chicken Balsamico, a grilled chicken breast with pesto and tomato. The pizzeria also sells a line of Parmesan-added sandwiches, including chicken, eggplant and veal, all breaded and prepared fresh in the store.
"People love the freshness; people can tell," said Sorce. "Not having the sandwiches, which are another way we convey our commitment to fresh ingredients, would hurt the business."
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Burke has a line of traditional, sliced sandwich meats, such as turkey, Italian beef and ham. But most popular are its flat meatballs: 6-oz. portions flattened slightly to ease their use on sandwiches and pizzas. They don't roll off the bun like regular meatballs, and that eases execution.
"Sandwiches give operators some flexibility," Hertz said. "Anything they can do to augment their foundational menu helps them sell more. There's a balance between having so many things that it becomes confusing and it's hard to manage, and giving consumers enough variety that they come back more often. Sandwiches play an important role in expanding the menu to give the consumer a greater sense of choice."
This expansion of choice can be done with minimal operational adjustment by using existing ingredients on a pizzeria's make table. Some of Burke's fully cooked pizza toppings, such as hand-pinched style sausage, beef crumbles or sliced Canadian-style bacon, are used on hot sandwiches and capped off with melted cheese.
"Anything you use as existing ingredients and use your pizza oven for, you can offer a different twist on it," Hertz said. "We think there's a great opportunity for pizzerias to take those ingredients they already have, put them on a different bread source, and then offer the customers something different. For the pizzeria it's about remaining true to who you are, but know your market well enough to add some choices. Sandwiches are a natural way to do this."