The Hole Story
By Maria Pilar Clark

Einstein Bros. Bagels’ competitive efforts in the fast-casual segment involve expanding the menu at its locations nationwide with new flavor combinations and meal choices.

New bagels, breads and breakfast items are freshening up the menu at Einstein Bros. Bagels, a wholly-owned subsidiary of New World Restaurant Group, Inc. The chain recently revamped its menu by introducing a number of unique and healthy items to satisfy consumers looking to fire up their taste buds in both the a.m. and p.m.
Einstein Bros. amounts for roughly 82% of Golden, Colo.-based New World’s annual retail sales. The company experienced a 4.1% overall sales increase last year, along with a 5.2% rise in sales at locations that have been open for more than a year.
Among the menu’s latest additions are two new top-shelf bagels — Dutch Apple and Green Chile — that will join the more than 10 existing varieties that are baked fresh every two hours onsite at each restaurant. Einstein Bros. also has added beef to its offerings, with a Steak and Egg Ranchero panini taking center stage for breakfast. The omelet sandwich features shaved sirloin, roasted green chilies and pepper jack cheese on grilled ciabatta bread. Making consumers’ mouths water at lunchtime is a Cheese Steak panini, piled high with shaved sirloin, roasted garlic horseradish spread, caramelized onions and melted Mozzarella and Provolone cheeses, also on grilled ciabatta bread.
Other new items include a Spinach, Tomato and Provolone Omelet sandwich and two Grilled Cheese options — one developed for adults and one for kids — featuring a blend of Provolone, Cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses on rustic white bread. And in order to accommodate more creative appetites, Einstein Bros. now offers a “Create Your Own” sandwich option, which it says makes the consumer’s eating experience “anything but routine.”
Chad Thompson, senior director of research and development for New World, recently gave Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery the “hole” story. Here, he explains how Einstein Bros. literally is blossoming right along with its menu expansion.
Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery: What consumer trends, if any, are dominating the fast-casual, sandwich and bread markets? How are these trends driving your growth?
Chad Thompson: We get a lot of business from consumers who want a high-quality product, but don’t have the time to go, sit and enjoy the experience. Our products are great, service is great, and we are priced to get high value for the dollar. Another trend is snacking. We have a lot of products that lend themselves to snacking all throughout the day, bagels being just one example.
SF&WB: How is Einstein Bros. different from other fast-casual restaurants, such as Great American Bagel, Cosi and Panera Bread? What makes your sandwiches, bagels and breakfast offerings stand out from the competition?
Thompson: Even though there are a lot of similarities between the concepts and our target customers, we try to stand out by having the best “overall experience.” This includes high-quality food, and fast and friendly neighborhood service at a price most times below the competition. Our stores’ general managers strive to know their customers by name. That means a lot. Also, we are a lot more dominant with our breakfast daypart than those competitors mentioned. Our bagels are baked fresh throughout the day, unlike competitors. Our breakfast offerings are unique and fresh. From spinach and bacon paninis to a refreshing twist on the traditional bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich, we have it all covered.
SF&WB: What, specifically, do consumers like most about the Einstein Bros. concept?
Thompson: The feel-good experience shared through our craveable food, comfortable neighborhood setting and quick-casual service.
SF&WB: What’s your new product development strategy? Do you prefer to stay consistent with tried-and-true favorites or branch out into the more innovative?
Thompson: We have a team of three culinary-trained chefs — myself included — developing new, unique menu offerings and experimenting with new flavors to continually improve the quality of our food. The Dutch Apple bagel was a product developed by the high interest of our guests for more sweet-topped bagels. The Cheese Steak panini is a product that fills a need for a roast beef customer that doesn’t want just a boring, cold roast beef sandwich with Cheddar. We have great bread, schmears and cheeses, so it is a no-brainer to put together a Cheese Steak panini with caramelized onions and roasted garlic horseradish sauce.
SF&WB: What drove you to add new types of bread such as ciabatta to your menu? What qualities or characteristics do you look for in your bread selection?
Thompson: It would be great if people could live on bagels alone, but our guests need variety and choices. Sometimes they don’t want a bagel for breakfast and lunch. We needed some other bread carriers to round out offerings on our lunch menu. We also bake a real nice Challah roll that is featured on a couple of great sandwiches. When choosing our breads, we look for a variety of textures, sizes and health aspects that will leave our customers satisfied.
SF&WB: What type of format do you prefer for your bread (fully baked, thaw-and-serve, par-baked, freshly delivered, etc.)? Is your bread baked on premise?
Thompson: Most of our bread products are baked on premise. The only breads we bring in from the outside are breads that require equipment other than what we already have on location, such as a rack oven for artisan breads. We prefer to bake the bread ourselves, but in some cases we may not have the space or equipment to make the right products.
SF&WB: What kinds of bread-related products would not be appropriate for your concept, and why?
Thompson: I don’t think there is such a bread that would never be considered. If the consumer demand were there for it, why wouldn’t we carry it?
SF&WB: What is your favorite sandwich place? Why?
Thompson: Home would be first choice, but I’m a chef, so I think most chefs would answer the same. I do like a great traditional New York-style deli, though. Plenty of meat, great bread, good produce and a nice, crisp pickle … what’s not to like?