Food & Beverage

What sandwich sales say about the economy

Jersey Mike's appetite for growth

Sandwich sales drum up about $30 billion a year, and these days, consumers are laying out more money for healthful, high-quality versions of the lunchtime staple.

Sandwich chain Jersey Mike's is one company benefiting from Americans' changing eating habits. CEO Peter Cancro told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday the company's performance is due in part to the fact that consumers have more money to spend on sandwiches.

"We're a little bit more expensive than most sandwich shops, maybe on the level of Chipotle, where lunch is about $10," Cancro said during an interview coinciding with National Sandwich Day. "[People] have more money to spend, they want the better quality product, and they're paying the money to get it."

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In the last two years, Jersey Mike's has grown from 560 locations to 830 mostly franchised restaurants that specialize in freshly sliced and grilled submarine sandwiches. Nation's Restaurant News named the company the fastest-growing chain on its 2014 Top 100 list.

Shares of fast casual chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, which Cancro counts as a competitor, are up nearly 20 percent this year.

In its third-quarter earnings, traditional fast food giant McDonald's reported its worst drop in monthly comparable store sales in the United States and Europe since 2003. The stock is down more than 3 percent this year, also hurt by controversies over meat and chicken supplies in China.

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Also helping Jersey Mike's expansion is improved access to credit, which allows small businesspeople to open franchises and grow, Cancro said.

"The money is available now more than it has been in quite a while," Cancro said.