Grab and go sandwich; quinoa and amaranth salad

Sandwiches and Salads: Grab-and-Go Classics

March 1, 2018

Grab-and-Go foods are super popular with on-the-run consumers. And nothing fits the niche better than sandwiches and salads. They are delicious and hold well. Discover extra ways to showcase these in-demand menu items.

Sandwiches and salads are a no-brainer for grab-and-go food service. Not only do they package, hold, and transport well, but they’re also hardworking menu staples that are popular with customers and can be adapted to a variety of different tastes, dietary preferences, and dayparts.

In fact, prepared hot and cold sandwiches and entrée salads are among the Top 10 most frequently menued grab-and-go selections, according to Datassential. Sandwiches, in particular, are supremely versatile: They work for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as snacks. They’re easy to adapt to vegetarian and vegan trends as well as bold flavors and ethnic innovations. And sandwiches represent the ultimate in portability, requiring nothing more than a napkin to fully enjoy.

Salads are no slouches either when it comes to versatility. They adapt well to every post-breakfast daypart, and are appropriate as an appetizer/snack, main course, or side. That salads can be meatless goes without saying. And the salad category has become increasingly exciting in recent years, encompassing everything from greens and vegetables to grains, beans, noodles, and on-trend proteins.

Adapting Menu Items

Grab-and-go sandwiches and salads can be every bit as delicious and distinctive as their dine-in equivalents. These pre-prepared items do need to be considered in light of grab-and-go constraints, however, especially in terms of holding and portability.

Excessively wet or messy sandwich fillings, for instance, are difficult in grab-and-go settings. Wrap sandwiches are popular because they do a particularly good job at containing all the elements and allowing each bite to contain every ingredient; they’re also very neat.

While customers still love the traditional sandwich favorites like subs, chicken, turkey, and cold cuts, according to Datassential, there’s a lot of room for innovation within the sandwich category. Depending on your clientele, you can give standards a little twist; instead of tuna-mayo salad, for instance, offer a Tuna Nicoise Sandwich with sliced red potatoes and hard-boiled eggs, marinated string beans, and romaine on Italian bread with olive aioli and capers. Add global touches with condiments like Korean barbecue sauce or Latin adobo.

With salads, sturdy ingredients tend to work best; using delicate lettuces or fresh herbs will limit the amount of time the item can be merchandised. Tossed and composed salads should be packaged separately from the dressing.

On-trend grain and Asian noodle salads, marinated vegetables, Cobb and other classic composed salads, Greek salads, and the ever-popular Caesar—with or without a protein topping—all work well for grab-and-go.

More Ideas:

  • Experiment with different sandwich breads such as croissants, rolls, focaccia, and various wraps, in addition to the usual white, wheat, and rye
  • Make sure to offer a few better-for-you sandwich choices utilizing lean meats like turkey, gluten free bread, or healthy-halo ingredients like chopped vegetables and vinaigrette dressing in a wrap
  • Give a shout-out to local and seasonal ingredients such as artisanal cheeses, farm-raised fruits and vegetables, and heirloom tomatoes
  • Offer weekly sandwich and salad specials to keep customers interested and encourage repeat business
  • Package salads in oversized containers that allow customers to dress and toss them easily; tightly fitting lids allow for some salads to actually be shaken in their container
  • Name and merchandise salads to take advantage of the popularity of bowls—with a variety of ingredients, composed so that all are visible

Sources: Datassential, Grab-and-Go Snapshots (July 2017); Datassential Keynote Report, Sandwiches (May 2017)


There are a number of trending sandwiches and ingredients that fit with grab-and-go:

  • Lobster, tuna, and crab rolls
  • Global sandwiches (Vietnamese banh mi, Mexican tortas, and cemitas)
  • Regional favorites (pastrami, muffalettas, hoagies)
  • Specialty cheese (fresh mozzarella, spicy Jack, pimento cheese)
  • Upgraded proteins (smoked meat, salumi, fresh tuna)

Salads represent a great place to get creative.

  • Great salads are all about balance, including texture, so add nuts, croutons, crisp vegetables like fresh fennel, or garnishes such as sesame seeds, wonton strips, or giardiniera
  • Use fruit, either fresh or dried, for a touch of sweetness
  • Salty elements like cheese, anchovy paste or Maggi® Seasoning, and smoked or cured meats and fish add depth
  • Add heft to vegan salads with chickpeas; roasted vegetables such as carrots, eggplant, butternut squash, or beets; tabbouleh or grain mixture; or hummus

“Sandwich” Doesn’t Always Mean Meat

Meatless sandwiches always appeal. Grilled Cheese is an obvious example. But patrons are asking for other options like avocado, falafel, and soy steak.