A sizable crowd was observed in the Arby’s restaurant in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park, Minn., at lunchtime Friday. But many customers didn’t get what they came for: Venison.
The restaurant ran out of a Venison Sandwich in just 15 minutes on Friday, a scene that has played out at several locations where Atlanta-based Arby’s has tested the limited-time offer.
According to a company spokesman, Arby’s started testing venison at a single location in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday and sold out shortly after lunch. On Friday, the company started testing the sandwich in Atlanta, in addition to five locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The sandwich is being tested in a total of 17 markets for a very limited time, starting at the Nashville, Tenn., restaurant on Halloween and continuing in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania at various points throughout November.
The common denominator among the locations where the sandwich is being tested: They’re popular deer-hunting states.
The Atlanta location sold out of the sandwich in 90 minutes, Arby’s said. Some locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where there were fewer sandwiches available, ran out in just 15 minutes, including the St. Louis Park location.
“We were very confident that hunters and even non-hunters would love this sandwich,” Arby’s spokesman Luke DeRouen said. “But it’s safe to say that the response has exceeded our lofty expectations.”
Arby’s has emphasized its place with meat lovers to great effect, generating six straight years of same-store sales increases and turning around a brand that had struggled for years.
That focus has led to menu items like brisket sandwiches and, more recently, a pork belly sandwich. But venison was perhaps its boldest step yet.
The sandwich consists of a thick-cut venison steak with crispy onions and a juniper berry sauce, served on a specialty roll. The venison is marinated in garlic, salt and pepper, and is cooked for three hours. It is priced at $5.
“Given its propensity for generating talkers, the Minnesota State Fair would be an ideal venue for this sandwich,” Rick Nelson, a food blogger for the Minneapolis StarTribune, wrote Friday. He called it a “viral food novelty.”
But supplies were very limited. Another report from Minneapolis indicated that Arby’s only had 70 sandwiches available at one location.
DeRouen said that the company thought it had enough supply of the venison in each market to last three days, “but the response was so incredible that we quickly sold out.”
Update: Nov. 4, 2016 This story has been updated to include additional information.