The Top 100 limited-service sandwich chains grew sales by 8.6 percent in 2008, to $20.3 billion. Gains were driven by industry leader Subway, with strong execution of its $5 foot-long promotion and value positioning resulting in a 17.1 percent increase in sales to $9.6 billion. The Top 100 outperformed the limited-service sandwich industry as a whole, which posted sales of $22.6 billion systemwide, growing by 6.9 percent.

Those are just a few findings detailed in a new study fromTechnomic, Chicago. The foodservice market  tracker and consultant just released its2009 Top 100 Limited-Service Sandwich Chains Restaurant Report.

“The limited-service sandwich chains that continue to perform well have conveyed a strong value equation to their customers - from craveable flavor profiles to reasonable pricing to convenience of ordering,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic. “Given the challenging economic environment, leaders should understand the shifting expectations of their customers and be prepared to make the necessary changes to remain relevant, while keeping a watchful eye on margin erosion concerns.”

Commenting on the report, Tristano said some of the trends, chains and products examined include:

    * Subway’s value-driven menu strategy
    * Jason’s Deli’s healthy approach to sandwiches
    * Which Wich’s customization
    * Jimmy John’s promotion of convenience with delivery options
    * ‘wichcraft’s gourmet, high-quality menu positioning

Other interesting findings include:

    * The Top 100 sandwich chains grew units by 1.8 percent in 2008 to more than 39,000 locations, outperforming the sandwich category’s growth of 1.4 percent and the total limited-service restaurant industry’s unit increase of 0.6 percent. The total restaurant industry’s units declined by –0.6 percent from 2007.

    * Subway led the sandwich industry in unit growth, adding 686 new locations in 2008. Atlanta-based Rising Roll Gourmet had the highest rate of growth at 71.4 percent, bringing its total to 12 units.

    * Menu trends among the Top 100 chains include use of flatbreads and premium ingredients, bolder flavor profiles, new hot panini-style sandwiches, healthier offerings and the use of natural, organic, local and sustainable sandwich components.

    * Chains continue to implement green initiatives to promote social responsibility, reduced energy costs and environmental protection.

    * Many quick-service operators are revamping to more upscale interiors to encourage customers to linger.

    * Operators are increasing their use of the Internet to reach customers through social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Tristano says Technomic uses the2009 Top 100 Limited-Service Sandwich Chains Restaurant Reportto help restaurant operators and foodservice manufacturers identify opportunities for growth, understand current trends, develop sales and marketing strategies, and analyze top performers by sales and units. Comprehensive appendices include profiles of individual chains and lists of the Top 100 sandwich chains sorted alphabetically and by sales and units.