Subway hopes that updating its ingredients and mobile app will help bring customers back to the sandwich chain.
Starting July 13, the company’s US restaurants will offer nearly a dozen new or improved ingredients, as well as 10 revamped or original sandwiches.
“How do we get people to look back at the brand and come back to us? So we’re making some of the biggest, boldest changes we’ve made to the brand in decades, ”said Trevor Haynes, director of Subway’s North American division.
The company struggled to gain a foothold for years, even before founder Fred DeLuca’s death in 2015. The success of its 5-foot deal during the 2008 financial crisis resulted in massive expansion and helped the chain, the largest in the US to become according to the number of pieces. But new rivals like Chipotle Mexican Grill and belly lured consumers away, while its large presence cannibalized sales among the remaining customers. And when sales plummeted, ugly franchisee fights played out in court and made the headlines.
Subway’s parent company, Doctor’s Associates, reported sales of $ 689.1 million for 2020, a decrease of 28% from net sales of $ 958.9 million in 2019. The sandwich chain has also been continuously reducing its massive store footprint since 2016. It ended in 2020 with 22,201 US locations.
Executives said its restaurants are largely different from the Coronavirus pandemicwhat gives the chain momentum for its turnaround. However, sales to colleges and urban areas continue to decline.
An important part of the company’s turnaround is dealing with its core menu.
“People were really crying out for food innovation. There wasn’t really a lot of food innovations, and where there were they kind of hunted for the shiny object of how Popeyes’ chicken sandwich will save the brand. “Said CEO John Chidsey.
Chidsey took over the reins in late 2019 and became the first permanent head of Subway unrelated to a founder. Before 3G Capital bought Burger King, he was the CEO of the burger chain. Now at Subway, he says the main focus in the United States is on increasing sales.
Months before Chidsey joined Subway, the chain’s culinary team began working with outside consultants like James Beard Award-winning chef Nancy Silverton to create two new types of sandwich bread: white and multigrain bread. Then the chain worked to improve its protein offering, bringing back their fried chicken, roast beef, and slicing their ham and turkey as thin as a deli. It also adds mashed avocado, BelGioioso’s fresh mozzarella, and a parmesan vinaigrette to its range of ingredients.
With the new ingredients, the chain is trying to balance its reputation as a healthier option with “craveability”. Despite the upgrades, customers shouldn’t expect to pay more for their subs once the revamped ingredients hit the market.
One menu item that won’t change is Subway’s Tuna, which was recently the subject of a lawsuit and a New York Times investigation which claims that the protein served at Subway is not actually tuna. But the chain gets stuck on the fish.
“We love our tuna,” said Haynes. “It’s nothing but 100% tuna. And it’s one of the few things that we haven’t changed because we’re very proud of the product.”
The day before the big launch, nearly half of Subway’s U.S. presence will close their restaurants at 6 p.m. Prepare local time. And on July 13, there are plans to give away up to 1 million sandwiches for free from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. local time.
Subway plans to keep improving its menu even after launch. Haynes suggested that seasonal sandwiches or proteins might hit the market in the coming years.
The chain also recently relaunched its mobile app with a new dashboard, out-of-stock insights, and the ability to place delivery orders in specific markets. Further updates are planned for autumn.
Restaurant chains like MC Donalds and Chipotle also updated their technology offerings after the pandemic drove a surge in digital orders over the past year and a half. According to market researcher NPD Group, digital orders in restaurants rose 124% in the year ended March.
To encourage the significant changes, Subway is planning a major promotion with eye-catching, as-yet-to-be-announced speakers.
“We’ll be everywhere,” said Haynes.