Sandwich makers want bigger bite of market - myfoxcarolinas.com

Sandwich makers want bigger bite of market

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

You can get them made to order and just right -- and there's no question we love sandwiches.

"We're very busy, so I want something I can eat without falling apart," explained a father with a baby carriage we met outside the new Earl of Sandwich location on 4th Street N in St. Petersburg.

These days it seems that everyone wants to sell you a sandwich, from Subway and Panera to Firehouse, Jersey Mikes, and Jimmy Johns. They offer all sorts of ingredients, combinations, and breads.

It's a 21st Century sandwich war.

"The old days of just putting some meat and lettuce and tomato between two slices of bread, those days are gone," offered Steve Heeley, CEO of Earl of Sandwich.

There are just 30 Earl locations nationally, but Heeley says a new franchising model is about to boost that number.

"We believe we can have a thousand or more Earl of Sandwiches in the U.S., and that's being conservative," he continued.

THE REAL EARL

While every franchise has its own story, Earl of Sandwich came from a story of different Earls. Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl partnered with descendants of Britain's 4th Earl of Sandwich, who's widely credited for inventing the sandwich to feed his troops so they could fight without stopping for a meal.

"He said get two pieces of bread and put the beef in the middle!" said Robert Earl, who runs his enterprises from Orlando.

He says a story that the 4th Earl invented the sandwich so that he didn't have to leave gambling tables in a casino is also acceptable lore to explain the invention of the sandwich, which they claim dates back to 1762.

THE EARL GETS RESPECT

For much of the time since then, sandwiches got little respect. But now, the sandwich business is worth billions and people won't settle for peanut butter and jelly. One survey found that 43 percent of Americans eat four sandwiches or more per week.

Sandwich makers competing for business are very conscious of price. Earl of Sandwich prices all of its sandwiches between $5.99 and $6.49.

"They want value, but they also want high quality," continued Heeley.

The new Earl of Sandwich prototype in St. Petersburg also features salads, soups, wraps, and breakfast.

The 4th Earl of Sandwich may not recognize his invention now. But in the sandwich wars, menus are expanding and the warriors expect that will continue.

"People are more adventurous," Heeley said. "They want to eat different kinds of things."

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