The muffuletta is an inspired sandwich — and inspiring, in the case of Schlotzsky's. The fast-food sandwich chain was founded by Don and Delores Dissman after the couple tasted a muffuletta at an Italian grocery store in the French Quarter — most likely Central or Progress. They called their version The Original and made it the only item on the menu at the Austin, TX, sandwich shop they opened in 1971.
The Dissmans' eight-inch sandwich featured genoa and cotto salamis, smoked ham, red onion, lettuce and tomato, black olives, mustard and herb dressing, and melted cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella cheeses. It was the size of a Frisbee and, fittingly, served on one. The Dissmans named their restaurant Schlotzsky's, just because it sounded funny, punctuated by a simple slogan: "One sandwich. It’s that good."
The Original developed an enormous following among students at the nearby University of Texas, and a few years later, Schlotzsky’s started expanding into franchises. It’s now a full-fledged fast-food chain in 35 states (with lingering infamy from a 2004 bankruptcy filing) and it has long since moved beyond the single-sandwich menu. The Original now comes in three sizes, with turkey and ham versions, alongside several other round sammies and pizzas.
The muffuletta's influence on The Original is obvious: The seeded sourdough bun has the same springy consistency as muffuletta bread. The buttons of black olives together with Italian dressing function like olive salad, while crunchy lettuce keeps the toasted bread from turning everything into a melty mess. Essentially, Schlotzsky’s is serving the most successful muffuletta spinoff to millions of quick diners and road trippers who’ve never even heard the word "muffuletta."
Source: Flickr User Code Poet