According to, it is estimated that Americans eat approximately 300 million sandwiches a day, and this does not include burgers or cheesesteaks. If burgers were included, that number would reach roughly 500 million. Instore delis need to offer great sandwiches in an easy, grab-and-go fashion to fully capitalize on the American consumers’ love of the item.

Customer Wants

A few things exist in food world that almost all of today’s food purchaser’s desire, and all of them can help the supermarket deli department create a better sandwich. Two things that customers want today are natural and healthy ingredients, and texture. One way to get these two attributes is in the basis of the sandwich, the bread. “Sales are up on campus because we’re making fresh bread,” says Geoff Blount, CEPC, ACE, and an instructor of hospitality education at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC. “It does make a huge difference.”

To go along with natural and healthier ingredients, smaller portions and local, in-season ingredients appeal to the health-conscious shopper of today. All demographics of shoppers from the millennial generation to the baby boomers have jumped onto the healthy eating bandwagon. Sandwiches need to reflect this movement in the supermarket deli. And with the busiest lifestyles in history to date, sandwiches need to be made and packaged to be travel friendly. Think of eating in your car, easy to handle, without being messy should be the goal.

Remember that your customers want what they want. Pay attention to your customer segment, the flavors that are trending with them and your clientele’s tendencies. The Midwestern shopper’s tastes will differ from those on the East coast, West coast and in the South. Always keep in mind what’s trending in a store’s particular region and apply the nation’s trends to that.

Building a Balanced Sandwich

When building a good sandwich, one of the first things to think about is how everything will work together. “Pay attention to how your ingredients work with your bread,” Blount says. For instance, if you’re going to use a big-holed, slow fermented focaccia, you want to be sure to use a sauce that complements that style of bread. A thinner, runnier sauce will make the sandwich a mess. For breads like this, a thicker sauce will go better with the larger holes, Blount says.

If the focaccia bread and runny sauce are a must have to create something signature or that you know will sell among your particular clientele, maybe put a slice of cold or slightly melted cheese between the sauce and bread. “Cheese will keep the sauce from seeping through,” Blount says.

Once you work out the bread and sauce textures, the next thing to consider is the balance of flavors and textures. Salty, sweet, spicy, bitter and crunchy should all play a role in your sandwiches. Once the you’ve chosen the bread, consider these ingredients as an example to covering all the bases. For the bitter piece, use some nice fresh greens—which can also cover the crunchy if necessary. Some oil and sweet honey will cover the sweet side, chipoltle sauce for spicy, salt, and a nice brined, fried chicken breast—provides good texture.

In-house Diners

Grab-and-go is important, but offering something for the sit down diner will round out your sandwich menu nicely for those that might have some extra time and are looking for something unique. Using the slow fermented focaccia bread, place a layer of provolone then pizza sauce on top of that. Add pizza meats to the top, shredded cheese, then flash bake and top with green. Serve this open faced with some cookies on the side for the sweet.