French Fry Sandwiches: What Happens When Two Menu Favorites Collide?
Jun 1, 2023
Do french fry sandwiches sound weird to you? Clearly, you’ve never been to Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh, PA.
Back in 1933, Joseph DiPriter created an all-in-one sandwich to feed hungry truckers on the go: grilled meat topped with provolone, cole slaw and french fries between two slices of bread.
Since then, the popularity of Primanti’s delicious invention has propelled the restaurant’s growth into 36 locations in four states. And it’s not hard to see why. Sandwiches and fries are two of the most popular items in all of foodservice.
- 45% of consumers say french fries are their go-to comfort food1
- 90% of consumers either like or love fries2
- 52% of operators saw sandwich sales increase in 2022 vs. only 6% who didn’t3
- More than twice as many consumers are increasing their sandwich consumption as reducing it3
It’s a match made in heaven: if people love sandwiches and love fries, why not combine them?
But there’s an even bigger motivation for operators to consider adding fries to sandwiches: they’re inexpensive. Compared to a lot of sandwich ingredients, fries are relatively cheap—while adding a ton of perceived value and Instagram cred.
With food costs rising, operators are leaning into french fries
The Primanti Brothers weren’t the only restaurateurs to see the value of adding fries to sandwiches, nor were they the first. In New Orleans, the first po’boy sandwiches featured french fries in roast beef gravy on a split baguette. In Cleveland, the Polish Boy sandwich—kielbasa on a bun topped with fries, vinegary cole slaw and BBQ sauce—is a local institution. Even the U.K. has a french fry sandwich: the Chip Butty.
Today, fries are showing up in newer handheld formats like wraps and burritos. And no wonder, considering the rise in the cost of ingredients. With nearly half of operators planning on raising sandwich prices next year—more than double the number from two years ago— the economic argument for french fries as an option is bound to become even more attractive.3
French fry sandwiches, wraps and burritos from around the U.S.
Fries have long been the most profitable food item on menus, and many operators have parlayed them as a base for high-margin appetizers. However, other operators have taken fries a step further—to the center of the plate.
Below are some of the latest examples of how operators are incorporating fries into sandwiches, wraps and burritos:
Checkers and Rally’s: Their Super Loaded Burford burger features seasoned fries, two slices of American cheese, caramelized onions, crispy onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mayo atop two large beef patties.
The Kabob Shop: This fast-growing 40-unit Mediterranean chain is now offering three different wraps featuring french fries—the San Diego Wrap, the Super Duper Wrap, and the Fry Wrap, as well as build-your-own platters where fries serve as the base.
Wrapitude: This San Antonio eatery has translated the venerable cheeseburger into a mouthwatering wrap. It features a California-sourced flour tortilla loaded with french fries, a chopped hamburger patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato and fry sauce.
La Perla Cocina: La Perla, San Diego, presents two variations of the classic California burrito. One is a standard version brimming with carne asada, fries, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The other, their Oaxacalifornia Burrito, combines the typical burrito fillings wrapped with a generous Oaxaca cheese quesadilla.
Man vs. Fries: These pop-up shops in 16 cities serve their CBR Burrito stuffed with straight-cut fries, chicken, cheese, bacon and guacamole. Options like Flamin’ Hot Doritos dial up the fun factor.
Want to try some french fry sandwich recipes? Here are a few to consider from the Simplot Culinary Team:
French fry sandwiches nail a lot of the trends
Competition in the sandwich space is stiff. Industry research firm Datassential recently offered some advice to operators trying to get a leg up:
“Innovation should focus on grab-and-go, hot, premium, and unique sandwiches. Hot sandwich sales have been doing better than cold sandwich sales, according to operators. These varieties can also command a higher price than many other sandwiches and will soften the blow to consumers of operator-planned sandwich menu price increases.”
—Datassential SNAP! Sandwich Keynote, 2023
If you’re one of the operators considering raising sandwich prices in 2023, incorporating french fries into your recipes is one way to add value and appeal to your offerings without adding much to food costs. Consider a fry like the Simplot SeasonedCRISP® Delivery+®. It maintains its delicious crunch inside sandwiches and offers a savory flavor profile that complements just about anything.
No matter which you choose, the combination of fries and sandwiches is a pairing many consumers can’t get enough of.
1 Datassential, Comfort Food Defined, 2023
2 Datassential, Flavors, 2023
3 Datassential, SNAP! Sandwich Keynote, 2023