This article first appeared in the 1 September 2005 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com
Competition more than necessity is the mother of invention in foodservice. Diners don't need more than two dozen burger choices, but that variety is what sets apart Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Spirits. Nashville, Tenn.-based Ruby Tuesday's menu boasts 30 burgers: 12 beef, 10 "Exotic Burgers" (including bison), five chicken and three burger wraps.
Distinctive preparations of burgers and sandwiches are signatures that lend personality and appeal to operations from quick service and corporate feeding to New York City's "21" Club, with its $30 burger.
Prentiss Dining Hall at Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.- where Palo Alto, Calif.-based Bon Appétit Management Co. handles foodservice - offers students a wrap with tuna, diced red onion, sliced green beans, chopped kalamata olives, feta cheese and Dijon-tarragon vinaigrette. Such a creation might have been considered culinary overkill a few years ago, but no longer.
The rise of bakery-cafes and fast-casual concepts has been built in part on bread. Richmond Heights, Mo.-based Panera Bread may rely on counter service, but there's no mistaking it for a traditional quick-service operation when its menu includes a sandwich of all-natural pepper-mustard chicken with pesto aioli, field greens, tomato and red onion on rosemary-onion focaccia.
The upscale trend extends to such standbys as the BLT, Reuben, toasted cheese and club sandwiches, all of which are getting dressed up on menus. Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store serves a Chicken BLT with Colby cheese, while Philadelphia-based Aramark offers a spinach-bacon pressed panini version at Flagler College, St. Augustine, Fla.
On the Menu
The sesame-seed bun was a bold departure in its day, but bread choices for sandwiches are more varied and interesting now. Some menu ideas:
- Brioche: Crispy chicken breast, melted cheese and spicy Buffalo sauce or chipotle-pepper mayonnaise on brioche bun at The Cheesecake Factory.
- Challah: Grilled salmon club on challah at Junior's delicatessen in New York City.
- Ciabatta: Blackened Cajun chicken sandwich on toasted ciabatta at T.G.I. Friday's.
- Focaccia: Smoked turkey breast with chipotle mayonnaise, field greens and red onion on Asiago focaccia at Panera Bread.
- Garlic bread: Steak sandwich on toasted garlic bread at Scoma's in San Francisco.
- Pita: Grilled peppercorn-crusted chicken with romaine, Parmesan and Caesar dressing in pita bread at Chili's Grill & Bar.
- Pretzel roll: Turkey O'Toole with turkey breast, Swiss cheese, honey-Dijon dressing on pretzel roll at Bennigan's Grill & Tavern.
- Romano-Parmesan cheese roll: Philly Cheesesteak Super on grilled Romano-Parmesan cheese roll at IHOP locations.
- Rye: Arby's revives the classic Reuben on marbled rye. Friendly's Grilled Chicken SuperMelt and Reuben SuperMelt on honey-dill rye.
- Sourdough: Half-pound Thickburger on sourdough toast at Hardee's. Bob Evans' Fish Market Haddock with tartar sauce on grilled sourdough.
- Tortilla: Sliced grilled chicken breast with Caesar dressing, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes and romaine in a spinach tortilla at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers.
- Wheat-nut bread: Roasted turkey, horseradish-chive-Havarti spread, grilled onion, romaine and mayonnaise on wheat-nut at 7-Eleven.