Meat+Poultry - August 2018 - 33

McCalister's Deli


oday's menus at deli shops - both at
independents and chains - are bringing
savvy innovation, which is driving
growth in sales.
Much of this is achieved by following
the latest trends in deli meats through
conversations in the foodservice industry,
working with third parties who analyze future
trends, and examining food around the world
to explore how those influences all play a role.
In 2018, clean all-natural products, regional
offerings and artisanal products are drawing
the attention and dollars of customers.
Jonathan Whalley, education coordinator
for the International Dairy Deli Bakery
Association (IDDBA), says there is a strong
opportunity to drive sales in higher-end meats
by incorporating those items in prepared food
programs such as sandwiches and pizza.
"While turkey, ham and beef continue to be
strong sellers, the growth potential continues
to rest in specialty Italian and Spanish meats,"
he says. "These items appeal to consumer
interest in craft meats, unique flavors and the
stories behind the products and their makers."
Jay Miller, director of product development for Firehouse Subs, a fast-casual
restaurant chain of 1,135 franchise restaurants
in 44 states, says the Jacksonville, Floridabased company is always following consumer
trends to provide a menu that will appeal to
the masses.
"Our focus is about providing guests with
full-flavored, high-quality meats, presented in
distinctive ways," he says. "For example, this
year, we introduced the 'limited time only'
Pastrami Reuben sub - our reinvented version
of the classic sandwich, which highlighted
USDA Choice pastrami instead of corned
beef and sweet, tangy coleslaw in the place of
sauerkraut." And because many of its guests
are seeking lighter options, smoked turkey
currently is its most popular meat.
Will Eudy, executive chef at McAlister's
Deli, which has 400 restaurants in 28 states,
notes while the company keeps its eye on the
trends and plays with them when appropriate,
since guests are drawn more to approachable
offerings, all trends need to be evaluated on a
level of comfort they will bring.
"What we're seeing is lower-fat options, like
chicken and turkey, are gaining more interest
with our guests," he says. "The one exception

to this is with bacon. Our guests want bacon on
everything and a lot of it. Ham, while holding
steady with our guests in our current offerings,
doesn't hold a high level of interest when
added to a new sandwich, which shows the
strength or affinity toward chicken or turkey."

Firehouse Subs' menu is directed and
approved by its founders - Chris Sorensen
and Robin Sorensen - former firefighters who
strive to authentically connect with guests
and their communities.
"We distinguish ourselves by serving
hot, steamed subs piled high with generous
portions of premium meats and cheeses,
paired with distinctive gourmet ingredients on
a toasted sub roll," Miller says. "A portion of
every guest purchase is donated to the nonprofit Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation
to support the purchase of life-saving
equipment for local first responders."
McAlister's Deli works a minimum of one
year in advance on its menu, and it's engrained
in its development path to be forward thinking.
"Not only do we play with flavors, but the
most important component is to actually test
and learn," Eudy says. "We have an incredibly
detailed testing process to ensure we deliver
on the flavor and quality our guest wants."

"Our guests
want bacon
on everything
and a lot of it."

Most in the industry agree organic and clean
label deli meats are on the rise because
they appeal to multiple consumer demands,
including health and wellness, improved animal
welfare, innovative flavor profiles and the local
movement. Ronnie Dragoon, owner of Ben's
Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant & Caterers,
with six locations spread throughout New York
State and one in Boca Raton, Florida, notes
millennials are particularly interested in this.
"All our poultry comes from Empire, the
premier Kosher poultry supplier in the world,
where the chickens and turkeys are humanely
raised and are vegetarian-fed without
antibiotics and no added growth hormones," he
says. "All of its beef is Kosher-certified, adding
another layer of inspection."
Florian Pfahler, managing partner of
Hannah's Bretzel, an organic restaurant chain
with eight shops throughout Chicagoland, says
its clean meat ingredients are what distinguishes

McAlister's Deli works
a year in advance on
developing its menu. | 08.18 | MEAT+ POULTRY


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - August 2018