This article first appeared in the 1 November 2007 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
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Exactly when the coup occurred that changed the face of American cuisine is impossible to know. But at some point during the two years since the last Menu Census, one more menu was revised, a tipping point was reached and the deed was done: Hamburgers no longer were the most ubiquitous American sandwich.
Among commercial operations, the grilled chicken-breast sandwich now is the most-often menued (on 77.9% of menus versus 76.9% of menus that include a hamburger); on the noncommercial side, the turkey sandwich is No. 1 by virtue of appearing on 92.4% of menus (compared with 91.8% for the hamburger).
Although burgers may have lost their crown, their popularity is undiminished. Cheeseburgers are the top sellers on commercial and noncommercial menus, with plain hamburgers ranked third on both. Specialty burgers are increasing in sales on the commercial side and mini burgers are near the top of the list of sandwiches restaurants are thinking of adding.
R&I's 2007 Menu Census also reveals several other, if less revolutionary, sandwich and bread trends:
- Club sandwich: The classic layered look is back in vogue. Among commercial operators that menu sandwiches, the venerable club trails only hamburgers and cheeseburgers as a top seller and also is No. 3 on the list of sandwiches commercial operations say are increasing in sales.
- Turkey sandwich: Simple yet elegant, turkey sandwiches appear among the top sellers for both commercial and noncommercial operations. Turkey reappears on the list of sandwiches that are increasing in sales for both industry segments as well.
- Panini: The Italian grilled or pressed sandwiches couldn't be hotter, topping the list of sandwiches operators are thinking of adding in both commercial and noncommercial segments. Hospitals, schools and corporate-feeding venues are especially eager to add Panini.
- Focaccia/specialty breads: Foodservice operators have focaccia and artisan/specialty breads at the top of their wish lists, with slightly more commercial operators saying they're thinking of adding artisan breads, and focaccia holding a slight edge among noncommercial operations.
- Wraps: Ranking No. 1 on the increasing-in-sales lists of both commercial and noncommercial operators, wraps continue to be consumer favorites. Sales of wrap sandwiches are especially strong at cafeteria/buffet and college/university operations.
- Philly cheesesteak sandwich: