Arby's Smokehouse Pork Belly sandwich is just one of the chain's "We Have the Meats" menu items.

Arby’s, a brand associated with a trademark cowboy-style hat, has meat top of mind when it comes to R&D and recipe innovation. Famous for stacked roast beef sandwiches, the company has expanded its menu to include a plethora of proteins in recent years, including classics like slow-roasted turkey and premium Angus beef as well as sandwiches like a smoked pork belly sandwich, thick-cut venison sandwich, pizza slider, Greek gyro, BLT and chicken and steak fajita flatbreads, among others.

The Atlanta-based Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc. calls its push for protein “Meatcraft” (complete with a trademark), and offers at least eight different meats on a daily basis, in addition to continually working on other meat-centric dishes that appeal to the chain’s customers across 3,348 global system restaurant locations in 48 US states and five other nations. Underscoring the point is Arby’s current campaign slogan, “We Have the Meats.”

The chain’s latest offerings include a limited-time Smoked Italian Porchetta sandwich and Mount Italy sandwich. The sandwiches are – like other Arby’s sandwiches – stacked with meat, but it’s the type of meat that is causing a buzz among consumers and industry observers.

The Smoked Italian Porchetta and Mount Italy sandwiches at Arby’s are where fast food meets slow cooking. A time-tested recipe that can be tracked back to 15th century Italy, porchetta is an Italian-style pork-belly-wrapped pork loin that is herbed, rolled, and smoked for eight hours. “The Smoked Italian Porchetta sandwich is a great example of our culinary team finding an international delicacy – one that’s revered in the meat world – and adding an Arby’s twist allowing us to serve it to our guests,” explains executive chef Neville Craw. “We worked with Sadler’s Smokehouse in Texas, the same pitmasters that smoke our brisket, to create a menu item that you simply can’t find anywhere else in the industry.”

The Smoked Italian Porchetta sandwich is topped with melted provolone cheese, banana peppers, lettuce, tomato and red onion and is infused with red wine vinaigrette and garlic aioli and served on a toasted sub-style roll. The Mount Italy sandwich is made with porchetta, along with pit-smoked ham, salami and pepperoni, combined with the same other ingredients as the Smoked Italian Porchetta hand-held.

Regularly introducing such items falls in line with the company’s new theme of “We Have the Meats”, says Bob Puccio, president and CEO for Business Solutions Now in Westlake Village, California, and a consultant with the Food Consultants Group. “By introducing the porchetta and venison sandwiches, among other unique and hard-to-find, meat-oriented menu items, Arby’s is delivering on that promise and attempting to broaden their customer base and visit frequency with the ‘meat lover’ demographic,” he observes, adding that QSRs are increasingly pressed to meet patrons’ evolving standards. “Today’s consumer is typically more sophisticated, knowledgeable and demanding than previous generations. They have more options and choices when it comes to away-from-home meals and will gravitate toward restaurant brands that continue to keep their menus new and interesting.” Puccio also points out that there is some risk inherent with new product launches, from operational complexity to regional appeal to storage and shelf life requirements.