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The History of the Sandwich: From 18th Century English Earl to 21st Century Franchises

The sandwich seems like such a basic type of food to make. It’s hard to think of it as having to be “invented”. But it was, at some point, and now look how far it’s come. Sandwich shop franchises are among the biggest companies in the world.

If you own and operate a sandwich shop franchise, what are you really selling? How did the sandwich become the food juggernaut it is today?

The practice of placing vegetables and/or meats and/or condiments between two slices from a loaf of bread seems to have begun in 18th century Europe, but human beings had been using bread or wraps to hold meat and other food for millenia previously. You’re probably vaguely aware that the sandwich is named after a person. This is true. But it wasn’t Freddie E. Sandwich. The sandwich takes its name from the title of an 18th-century British aristocrat and statesman.

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich was the Secretary of State for the Northern Department, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Postmaster General but, let’s face it, his most important contribution was the invention of the sandwich. If he did actually invent it. The story goes that Sandwich was such an avid gambler that he refused to take time away from the gaming table to eat a proper meal, so he has his servants bring him easily eaten snacks of salted beef between two slices of toasted bread. Others contend that Sandwich’s reputation for gambling is uncharitable and that work was his real obsession, so the first sandwich was probably a quick meal at his desk. Others still contend that the food got its name for Sandwich’s propensity for eating them, not his invention of them.

Those are the origins of the sandwich. But how did sandwich shop franchises become so popular?

However it started, by the 19th century, sandwiches were a popular food all over Europe. The sandwich has been called Britain’s “biggest contribution to gastronomy” which, coming from the country that gave us eel pie and blood pudding . . . isn’t saying much. But the sandwich took off in America. For some early Anglophiles, the sandwich was fine dining. However, the sandwich really became popular as a quick, easy meal for working American men (as they were mostly men back then). In this respect, the sandwich rose to prominence in America in the same way as its subcategories the hamburger and the Philly cheesesteak and, to a certain degree, pizza.

Sandwich shops really lend themselves to franchising. The sandwich shop franchise is a version of the fast food franchise. There are different types of sandwiches that sandwich franchises sell. Perhaps the most popular is the submarine sandwich. The sub sandwich itself has a rich and complex history in America. Indeed, depending on where you’re reading this you might know subs better as hoagies, heroes, grinders, or maybe even something else entirely. Whatever you call them, sub sandwich shop franchises do big business. Indeed, the biggest fast food chain in the world is a sandwich shop franchise. We think you know which one we’re talking about.

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To learn more about sandwich shop franchises, please get in touch with us today.

Rob Lancit Vice President-Internet Brands, MFV Expositions
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