of two

Fast Casual Sandwiches: Trends

Trends in the fast casual sandwich market include: Increases in franchises and competition within the space, increases in delivery options for consumers, increases in creative menu options and specialty bread choices, and increases in plant-based offerings. Drivers of these trends include consumer demand for healthier and more creative options.

Increases in Franchises & Competition

  • From 2014 to 2019, the Sandwich and Sub Store Franchise Industry has shown consistent growth, showing gains in revenue across the board. Franchises maintain their popularity by “developing new menu options that capitalize on increasing awareness of the health risks associated with a high-fat diet.” Experts expect the market to see continued growth in the coming half-decade.
  • Currently, Subway and Jimmy John’s have the highest market shares within the Sandwich and Sub Store Franchise Industry. Notably, however, Subway has been struggling since sales began declining in 2014, and closed more than 1000 nationwide locations in 2018. Jimmy John’s franchises, despite recent setbacks related to their now-removed founder, have continued to grow, opening 148 new franchises in 2018 and planning to open 737 in 2019.
  • With 61% of American consumers reporting they eat a sandwich at least once a week, and 37% of them reporting they eat more than one sandwich a week, the fast casual sandwich market is going strong. However, that also means that more restaurants are adding sandwiches to their menus and more competitors are popping up every day. Currently, nearly 66% of restaurants in the US have sandwiches on their menus.

Increases in Delivery Options

  • To stay current with restaurant industry trends, fast casual sandwich shops are partnering with third-party delivery companies, like GrubHub and UberEats.
  • Public hotspots for delivery are another option appearing more often on the horizon. They are less expensive than traditional delivery, but can be shared with other restaurant partners (to cut costs for set-up), and can provide restaurants with their own customer data.

Increases in Creative Menu Options

  • With the rises in competition, sandwich shops have to fine new and innovative ways to compete and stand above the crowd. What this means is that “more operators are branching out to include unique and innovative sandwiches on their menus.” In fact, 50% of 18 to 34-year-old consumers want their sandwiches to come with “new or unique flavors and ingredients.”
  • One popular innovation in this market (and in competing fast casual non-sandwich shops) includes expanding breakfast-based sandwiches into all-day foods, like adding chicken-with-waffles sandwiches to the dinner menu. For breakfast foods, flavor and ingredients trends include “cucumber, thyme, sage, oregano, smoked gouda, guacamole, manchego, Cajun, chili, and mango.”
  • Another popular innovation is offering delicacy-style sandwiches with exotic toppings like chorizo sausage and avocado. For lunch or dinner-based sandwiches, food trends to watch include “citrus, poblano and gruyere … curry, muenster, truffles, cherry, Hawaiian flavors, ricotta, [and] maple and lemongrass.”
  • Experts report that more than third (34%) of Americans prefer to “add sides as toppings to their sandwiches,” so these options are appearing more on menus.
  • Other experts note that, despite American’s desire for creative, healthy, or exotic sandwiches, standards like “grilled cheeses and PB&J’s will continue to be popular.” They point out, however, that restaurants that “can differentiate their versions will stand out from the crowd.”

Increases in Bread Options

  • A wider variety of bread choices are also appearing on menus country-wide to appeal to a wider selection of consumer palettes, including more exotic choices like Naan bread, dosas (pancake wrap), and roti (like pita bread), as well as simpler choices like pretzel bread.
  • Asian breads, like bao buns, “have seen an increase on menus” in US restaurants (and sandwich shops) because they “pair well with savory fillings” and quench consumer desires for “adventurous and tasty” food options.

Increases in Plant-Based Offerings

  • Experts say that more plant-based offerings have been appearing on menus recently (and will continue to do so in the coming years). Drivers of this include health reasons and also “to bring more variety and texture” to foods.
  • Healthier plant-based options “such as cauliflower and jackfruit” have been trending, since they are “packed with vitamins and minerals but still taste great.”
  • Variations of root vegetables, like yucca fries, are popular examples of increasingly popular foods. Brightly-colored vegetables, like “carrots, beetroots, and sweet potatoes” are also becoming increasingly popular, not only to “add flavor but also visual appeal.”
  • Potato-based fries are also returning to popular status, though they’re being kicked-up a notch with myriad variations, like adding bacon or exotic cheeses.
  • More restaurants are adding different types of vegetable-based meat substitutes to their menus, as well, to appeal to vegetarians, vegans, and those who are cutting down on meat products.

Research Strategy

To identify current trends in the Fast Casual Sandwich Market, we looked for what experts in the industry believe to be the most-current changes happening in the market. From the collection we found, both from this particular segment of the overall market, as well as the overall market itself (Fast Casual Restaurants), we synthesized the trends into those identified and described here.

of two

Made-to-order Beverage Space: trends

Some key trends driving the made-to-order beverage space in the United States include a rising focus on wellness and health, increasing number of orders for iced and cold coffee, preference for picture-perfect beverages, and sustainability.

Focus on Wellness and Health

  • Several consumers, especially millennials, look for beverages that provide a health benefit. While more and more consumers are becoming health conscious, functional made-to-order beverages are gaining popularity as healthier alternatives to soda and soft drinks. According to the category marketing manager of Global Partners, Shauna Seidenberg, beverages that are fresh, healthy, and made with all-organic ingredients are currently trending.
  • It was found that beverages with organically-sweetened and non-GMO options with natural flavors and colors are rising in demand such as made-to-order organic smoothies. According to a survey conducted by Mintel, about 47% of consumers opt for beverages that contain antioxidants, 40% of consumers prefer beverages that promote brain health, 35% of consumers purchase beverages that are anti-inflammatory, and over 30% of consumers look for beverages that have added probiotics.
  • The made-to-order beverage space is expected to see a rise in functional beverages that contain superfood ingredients such as spirulina, ginger, and turmeric; and adaptogenic ingredients such as maca and mushrooms. Some examples of healthy beverages that are gaining popularity among consumers include matcha latte, beetroot latte, and turmeric latte.
  • According to GroceryDive, the concept of better-for-you beverages is growing in the United States due to consumers’ increased focus on health and wellness. The all-organic beverage sector is forecast to reach $55 million by the year 2025. During the period 2017-2018, the market for fermented beverages and kombucha tea rose by 31.4%.

Preference for Iced and Cold Coffee

  • According to research published by Technomic, consumers are frequently ordering iced and cold coffee at full-service restaurants. It was found that after hot coffee, iced and cold coffee is the second-most-preferred beverage. This particular variety of coffee beverages is currently trending up and will continue to observe growth in the made-to-order beverage space.
  • While some of the largest brands in the United States make their own cold brew, several other stores prefer to obtain draft systems and pre-made concentrates that offer zero waste, provide good quality, and 100% yield. Nitro cold brew is one such beverage that is currently popular with consumers. Nitro cold brew is just a cold coffee brew that is pumped from a particular machine that infuses the coffee with nitrogen and thus, provides a creamier cold brew.
  • Consumers prefer chilled made-to-order coffee beverages over hot coffees primarily due to freshness, bean origin, ethnic flavors, varied spices such as cardamom, and sustainability. While freshly-brewed hot coffee drinks are still heavily consumed by Americans, cold brew drinks have experienced a 36% rise in year-over-year growth. Within the made-to-order cold and iced coffee beverage space, exotic flavors such as German chocolate, maple, and coconut are trending upward.

Preference for Picture-Perfect Beverages

  • Young consumers are driven to chose beverages that are visually striking in color and design so that they might post pictures of their drinks on social media platforms such as Instagram. Images and hashtags of the drinks help brands get great exposure.
  • Some of the largest beverage brands in the country, like Starbucks, have taken advantage of the ever-rising trend of sharing images on social media to develop creative and innovative beverages that showcase skill, use colored garnishes, designed glassware, and inventive recipes. An example of such a drink is Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino.


  • Consumers in the United States are increasingly becoming conscious of traceability and sustainability in every item they purchase, including made-to-order beverages. In the support towards their local communities and farmers, American consumers are even willing to spend more on quality beverages whose ingredients are sourced locally.
  • Beverage companies across the country are responding to the rising environmental concerns of the use of plastic. Consumers’ decisions are found to be heavily influenced by the eco-friendly initiatives taken by beverage companies. Brands that support eco-friendly options, such as Starbucks, are experiencing increased growth in sales due to consumer preference for environmentally friendly straws and cups.

Research Strategy

To obtain some key trends driving the made-to-order beverage segment in the United States, we began our search by looking through recent reports, studies, and surveys from industry-specific websites such as Grand View Research, market analysis websites such as Mordor Intelligence, market research websites such as Mintel, and websites of leading players in the beverage industry such as Starbucks. After an extensive search through these channels, we were able to identify four key trends driving the made-to-order beverage space in the country. The trends that have been identified were chosen based on the number of times they were mentioned in multiple reports.