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Friendly’s to test new sandwich line

Friendly’s, the family dining chain based in Wilbraham, Mass.,  said it will begin testing a new line of sandwiches served on “house-baked” breads Nov. 1.

Called Breadmaker’s Sandwiches, the line will be offered at 33 locations on New York’s Long Island until January when they will be re-evaluated.

The Breadmaker’s Sandwiches are:

Chive Turkey: Oven-roasted turkey with Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and honey-mustard sauce on soft potato chive bread.

Cranberry Bacon Club: Oven-roasted turkey breast with crisp maple pepper bacon, lettuce, tomato and cranberry honey mustard on a multi-grain cranberry Panetini roll that is torpedo-shaped.

Ciabatta Roast Beef: Sliced roast beef with a creamy horseradish sauce, lettuce, tomatoes and red onions on a caraway-sea salt Ciabatta roll.

Turkey Avocado Club: Oven-roasted turkey breast, crisp maple-pepper bacon and fresh avocado garnished with lettuce, tomato and a garlic spread on toasted potato chive bread.

Orchard Chicken Salad: Chicken salad made from grilled chicken breast, apples and thick-sliced almonds on a bed of leaf lettuce inside a multi-grain cranberry Panetini roll.

Chicken Rosemary Ciabatta: Fresh-grilled chicken breast with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and a toasted garlic sauce on a rosemary-cheese Ciabatta roll.

Chipotle Firecracker Chicken: Chipotle-seasoned chicken breast topped with Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and a honey-chipotle sauce on zesty toasted jalapeño cornbread.

The new sandwiches will be priced between $7.79 and $8.59, and include a side of French fries, sweet potato fries, salad or soup.

The Long Island locations, which are operated by J&B Restaurant Partners, were selected for the test in part because the franchisee’s president and chief executive, Joseph Vitrano, formulated the idea to offer “unique” sandwiches that appeal to a broad demographic and are easy to prepare.

Friendly’s currently focuses on melts and other hot dishes.

“Friendly’s always allows us to give them feedback and are open to suggestions,” said Vitrano, who is the second-largest Friendly’s franchisee and a member of the more than 500-unit chain’s Franchise Advisory Council.

“I was involved in marketing and was always opinionated that we need to add a new category,” he said. “So I threw up the idea of sandwiches with unique builds. This line is pretty different from what we currently carry.”

The line’s par-baked breads will be finished on premise and require that the test stores purchase ovens and oval china plates with colorful rims, and make some electric upgrades. Vitrano said it will cost about “$2,000 per unit, give or take a few bucks.”

He said the Breadmaker’s line also will “improve our speed of service” since five of the seven don’t require cooking once ordered. He anticipates being able to turn tables within 25 minutes.

“But my main reason for being involved was to go after a whole different category that I think is exploding,” he said. “They are very reasonably priced and something that people wouldn’t get tired of.”

Friendly’s also plans to introduce a new Bacon Cheeseburger Soup systemwide starting Nov. 15, said Friendly’s executive chef Andre Fuehr.

A more healthful line focused on smaller portions is also in the pipeline and is expected to be rolled out January 2011, Fuehr added.

Vitrano said Fuehr “was generous and actually listened to what we said.”

Fuehr, who said he has experience working with franchisees, observed: “They really have their skin in the game. They know their business and what works and what doesn’t work. So it’s great.”

Besides offering more choices with the Breadmaker’s, line, Friendly’s “really wanted to design sandwiches that are contemporary to appeal to moms and other customers who are interested in artisan-style sandwiches,” Fuehr said.

If the sandwiches are well received, the company will make them available in its full-service locations, rather than Friendly’s Express outlets.

“I think it’s going to be a slow grow,” the chef admitted. “It’s going to take some time for our customers. Success for me will not be selling 15 a day. It will be customers saying ‘I like what you’re doing, and I like the choices.’

“I’m not holding out for big numbers,” he said. “It’s a seedling. It’s going to take a while to grow into an oak.”

Friendly Ice Cream Corp. also distributes branded products at more than 4,000 retail locations.

For more on Friendly’s menu, see the Nov. 8 issue of Nation’s Restaurant News.

Contact Pam Parseghian at [email protected].

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