Subway is the world's biggest sandwich chain. It overtook McDonald's as America's biggest fast-food restaurant by number of outlets in 2002, and achieved the same feat on a global scale in 2010. Growth has been generated partly by Subway's offer of a healthy alternative to burgers and fries, but also a supremely efficient franchising model organised by parent company Doctor's Associates. As a franchising machine it has few equals, voted the #1 franchise opportunity in the US an astonishing 17 times between 1985 and 2010 because of its levels of franchisee support and development and the potential for growth. The advantage to customers is the flexibility of the menu, as well as its made-before-your-eyes freshness. After years of steady growth, though, performance has slowed somewhat since the mid-2010s, especially in the US where there have been a series of conflicts between corporate HQ and franchisees. Another blow was an embarrassing scandal surrounding longtime brand ambassador Jared Fogle, followed by the untimely death of founder and CEO Fred DeLuca in 2015. His sister Susanne Greco succeeded him for a while but she too stepped down in 2018. Trevor Haynes, previously corporate development officer, was named as interim acting CEO. As of early 2019, the chain contained around 42,600 outlets - down from a peak of 45,000 in 2015 - spread across 110 countries. The US is still the biggest market, but sales there have been declining for the past few years, prompting the closure of several unprofitable stores. Subway has around 24,650 outlets in the US - over 10,000 more than both McDonald's and Starbucks - but is ranked #3 by system sales. (Despite its huge footprint, Subway's annual sales per store are significantly lower than its two biggest rivals; another contributing factor in the friction between the company and its franchisees). Trade source NRN estimated US system sales of $10.8bn in 2017, down from a high of $12.5bn four years earlier. Global system sales were around $17.3bn.
Capsule checked 21st January 2019
Who are the competitors of Subway? Subway's dominates the limited service sandwich chain with almost 50% market share. Its main rivals in that segment are Arby's and Jimmy John's. Panera Bread is similar but is classified as a bakery/cafe. See Restaurants Sectors for others.
Who handles Subway's advertising? Find out more from Adbrands Account Assignments
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Historical profile information for Subway
Adbrands Account Assignments track account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets.
Adbrands Social Media 19th Jul 2019: "Make It What You Want". It's always fun to have a go at your competitors by mocking their brand mascots. Especially if, like Subway, you don't really have one of your own (any more) so there's no chance for them to respond in kind. Here in the UK, Subway recently dropped longtime partner McCann and tied up instead with edgy indie Above & Beyond. Here are the results: a cheeky, comparatively low-fi promotion for the wider range of choices offered by Subway over the partly disguised (for obvious legal reasons) rival fast-feeders. No work of genius, admittedly, but an entertaining poke in the ribs.
Adbrands Social Media 24th Sep 2018: How cheeky is this? To be honest, we think Subway and its dedicated Dentsu Aegis agency The Franchise are kidding themselves if they think McDonald's icons would choose a Subway meal on their days off. McDonald's has its faults but it's still an immensely impressive feeding machine. Attack ads like this - and the ones from Wendy's that have for years been highlighting Golden Arches' frozen patties - are just wishful thinking. According to market-watcher NRN, McD's US system sales grew 3.4% last year, compared to 3.1% at Wendy's and a 4.4% decline at Subway. Even so, that doesn't stop the ad from bringing a smile to our faces, if only for its sheer nerve.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd May 2018: Suzanne Greco is stepping down as CEO of sandwich chain Subway. She took on the role in 2015 following the untimely death of her brother Fred Deluca, who founded the business. She is replaced on an interim basis by Trevor Haynes, previously chief business development officer. "Subway has been part of my life since I was 7 years old," said Greco in a statement. "I love the brand and the company, and I always will, but it's time for me to have more balance in my life. I feel very good about the strategic moves we've made in the last three years, and I have confidence in the future of the company."
Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Dec 2017: Subway's top marketer Karlin Linhardt is leaving after just eight months in his role, apparently as a result of what the New York Post described as a "nationwide revolt" by franchisees over his plans to re-introduce a heavily discounted price of $4.99 for foot-long sandwiches (instead of a regular price of up to $8). At that price, franchisees claim, they will be losing money on every sale. A successor is being sought.
Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Dec 2017: The week's most significant account assignment was Subway's appointment of a new dedicated entity within Dentsu Aegis Network to handle creative and media for North America, the first time, the US and Canadian accounts have been bundled as one. New unit The Franchise will draw upon McGarryBowen and Canada's DentsuBos for creative, and Carat for media, as well as other group-owned agencies. Billings are somewhere in the region of $500m annually.
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