Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
September 3, 2019

As consumers—especially younger generations—gravitate to new experiences, there’s opportunity for the sandwich platform to focus on innovation. Blending tradition with culinary expertise will help differentiate this menu section.

Consider these four opportunity areas for future implementation with sandwiches:

Bread

Think of bread as a key flavor agent versus just something that sandwiches the fillings. Complement the overall build by emphasizing the story behind the selected bread (or alternatives) just as much as the style of bread. Examples include:

  • Dutch crunch bread
  • Pumpernickel hoagie
  • Sprouted grains
  • Gluten-free
  • Eastern Med wraps & pitas

Menu examples:

Our Famous Fritter Burger: Indonesian corn fritters as the buns, char siu bacon, white cheddar, kimchi, Sriracha aïoli, togarashi fries
—E&O Kitchen & Bar, San Francisco

The Roxie Special: mortadella, ham, salami, two cheeses, and artichoke hearts, on Dutch crunch bread
—Roxie Deli, San Francisco

Fillings

Sandwich fillings are rapidly evolving with emerging trends and diverse consumer eating preferences. Chefs are featuring housemade charcuterie, luscious meats, emerging meat alternatives, exciting seafood and unique vegetable applications.

  • Eggs (soft-poached, fried, rolled omelette)
  • Plant-based proteins
  • Braised, roasted, pickled vegetables
  • Sea vegetables
  • Aggressively seasoned fried chicken
  • Grilled then marinated meats/game/poultry

Menu examples:

Open-Face Roasted Pork Shoulder Sandwich with a fried egg, chipotle aïoli, arugula, mandarin orange, apples on Marla Bakery toast
—Cassava, San Francisco

Roasted Lamb Leg with heirloom tomatoes, pesto chevre, Calabrian chile aïoli, pickled onions, arugula, on sourdough
—Stacked, Portland, Ore.

Cheeses

Cheese grounds modern sandwiches with its inherent comfort and elevates the overall experience with multi-sensory appeal and craveable textures.

  • Smoked or flavored cheese
  • Alpine cheeses
  • Slices of Brie
  • Spreadable cheeses (quark, ricotta, pimento, cream cheese)
  • Cheese curds
  • Cheese-topped breads

Menu examples:

Knuckle Sandwich: Grilled salami, pepperoni and ham with lettuce, tomato, mayo, Champagne vinaigrette, topped with melted mozzarella
—Sinful Subs, Las Vegas

Spicy Chicken JB Melt (changes seasonally): Spicy hand-pulled chicken, arugula-almond pesto, caramelized cheese curds, flaky pancake
—Little Tong Noodle Shop, New York

Spreads/Finishes

These essential components boost dimension and provide an opportunity to introduce compelling flavor trends to savvy palates. As global flavors continue to rise in popularity, their judicious incorporation can bring additional unexpected touches.

  • Flavored hummus
  • Lemon pistachio pesto
  • Miso-honey aïoli
  • Savory jams
  • Yuzu pickles

Menu examples:

Steak Tartare Club with yuzu kosho mayo, bacon, lettuce, tomato on Sea Wolf rye
—Mean Sandwich, Seattle
Porchetta & Kimchi Sandwich with house kimchi, cheddar, arugula, herb aioli
—Brider, Denver

About The Author

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ROB CORLISS is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 20 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and, currently, owning a consulting company, ATE (All Things Epicurean), focused on flavor, menu and restaurant innovation. Based in Nixa, Mo., he has an energizing passion for food and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness.