Recent launches from top chains feature premium positioning, artisan-inspired breads and trendy toppings.
Buns have moved from a supporting role to the spotlight at Wendy’s, which over the past two years has launched a string of limited-time offers on ciabatta, brioche, pretzel buns and a multi-grain flatbread made with flax seeds, cracked wheat, rolled oats, millet and sesame seeds. The chain’s limited-time pretzel bread offerings proved so popular, they have since been added to the permanent menu.
This year, Panera Bread introduced a line of flatbread sandwiches in Southwestern chicken, Mediterranean chicken and Thai chicken varieties. Representing the bakery-cafe’s first bread addition to its sandwich lineup in several years, the Indian naan-style breads are baked with whole grains and Greek yogurt, then folded, filled and grilled.
A sandwich at Peet’s Coffee & Tea features turkey that is slow-cooked for eight to 10 hours, then topped with house-made pumpkin-seed pesto aioli.
Einstein Noah in October added the Bavarian Chicken Sandwich, featuring a chicken breast fillet topped with beer cheese spread, Applewood bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion and honey mustard served on a pretzel roll; and the Napa Valley Chicken Sandwich, which has a chicken breast fillet and melted Brie cheese, sweet fig jam, red onion, organic arugula and a spread of garlic aioli on a potato roll.
Earlier this year, Jack in the Box introduced Jack’s Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich, topped with a ghost pepper-ranch sauce and Swiss-style cheese.
Smoked, saucy meats are gaining traction on quick-service sandwiches. Quiznos, among other chains, this year have rolled out pulled pork for a limited time. The spicy variety contains slow-roasted pulled pork, bacon, aged cheddar, cilantro-jalapeno slaw and barbecue sauce on jalapeno cheddar bread.
Arby’s debuted a barbecue brisket sandwich, with slow-smoked meat with smoky barbecue sauce and crinkle-cut pickles on a Kings Hawaiian bun.
Recognizing a demand for heartier, handheld breakfast items, Starbucks this year added four sandwiches to its morning menu, including a slow-roasted ham and Swiss cheese on a croissant bun, vegetable and fontiago cheese on a ciabatta bun, egg and cheddar on multigrain toast, and reduced-fat turkey bacon with egg whites and reduced-fat white cheddar on an organic wheat English muffin.
For a limited time, Dunkin' Donuts rolled out a chicken apple sausage breakfast sandwich, which features an egg, reduced-fat cheddar cheese, and a chicken sausage seasoned with spices and apples on a oven-toasted English muffin.
At White Castle, a Chicken and Waffles sandwich debuted on the breakfast menu, featuring a crispy chicken breast and country-style gravy sandwiched in a pair of Belgian waffles.