Making a sandwich is easy, right? Two slices of bread, meat, cheese and sauce … done. Creating the two new 7‑Eleven Melt artisan sandwiches was a little more involved. Like evaluating 20 different bread options … measuring 1,000 different buns … creating 75 prospective sauces … testing multiple cheese varieties for “meltability” … and building 50 variations to find that perfect recipe. And taste tests … lots of taste tests.
The two winning recipes—Italian Melt and Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt—won by a “landslide” according to Kelly Buckley, 7‑Eleven Inc.’s vice president of fresh food innovation. Sold at participating 7‑Eleven stores that carry hot foods, the Melt sandwiches’ introductory retail price is $2.99.
Available in 7‑Eleven stores’ fresh-foods case, the new sandwiches are toasted to go in the stores for each purchaser. A Melt sandwich typically takes less than a minute to toast and is served warm.
With a name like Melt, cheese is an important element of these sandwiches. The ingredients for each are:
Italian Melt – Genoa salami, pepperoni, premium sliced ham, provolone cheese, pepperoncini peppers and creamy Italian sauce on artisan, herbed ciabatta roll
Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt – Sliced chicken breast, smoked bacon strips, cheddar cheese and ranch sauce on a tender artisan Italian bun
“Hot foods are really hot at 7‑Eleven, both figuratively and literally,” said Buckley. “Hot pizza, chicken wings and tenders, and mini-tacos are all extremely popular with our customers. We wanted to round out our menu to offer a toasted-on-order alternative to our fresh-made cold sandwiches that customers can grab for lunch without taking too much time from their lunch hour. Our parameters were simple – toasted, fast and delicious.”
Getting there was a little more involved. The Melt sandwiches were in development almost a year, during which every ingredient, each recipe, even the packaging was researched, sourced, tested and, if necessary, refined to improve taste and quality.
“At 7‑Eleven, a customer looking for a quick lunch can easily build a fresh meal in just a few minutes that’s more than a bag of chips and a soft drink … although we certainly can fill that need,” Buckley said. “Our stores offer many more options for beverages and sides, like fresh-cut fruit, a salad, hummus and cut veggies, and a decadent brownie for dessert.”
Americans do love their sandwiches. According to a study released last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately half of all Americans over the age of 20 eat at least one sandwich each day. A December 2014 NPD/Crest study ranks sandwiches highest in menu importance for food-service providers.
Like its fresh bakery goods and cold sandwiches, the Melt sandwiches are made fresh daily in local kitchens and delivered daily to stores.
“People don’t really have much of a lunch hour anymore,” Buckley said. “It’s more of a lunch half-hour. A hot lunch almost seems like a luxury, and we want to give customers craving a hot and hearty meal a quick and easy option.”