Subway is hoping to reintroduce itself to customers and persuade them to try one of its sandwiches after years of declining sales.
Subway restaurants across the country will introduce a new menu next week that will improve items across the board. According to the chain, this is the most significant menu change in its history.
New recipes for the chain’s Italian and multigrain breads, as well as new sandwich toppings, are part of the revamp.
The chain is also making changes to existing menu items. For example, Subway’s bacon will now be hickory-smoked, and its turkey and ham will be sliced thinner. Past favorites like rotisserie chicken and roast beef are also returning.
Thousands of restaurants plan to give away up to one million free sandwiches on July 13 between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. to encourage customers to try the new ingredients. The Subway app has also been updated, and the company has partnered with DoorDash to allow customers to order delivery directly from the Subway app.
Some shoppers used to think of Subway as a cheap and healthy option because they could stuff their sandwiches with whatever vegetables and protein they wanted without breaking the bank. However, competition in the fast casual space has pushed Subway out in recent years.
“We want to make a loud enough bang … to draw those people back to give us another look,” Subway CEO John Chidsey told CNN Business.
Subway is courting those customers and hoping to please its franchisees with the new menu.
According to Technomic, a foodservice research and consulting firm, sales at Subway locations in the United States have been declining in recent years. According to Technomic’s analysis, system-wide sales at Subway’s US locations were $12.3 billion in 2013, the best year in the past 15, and will be around $8.3 billion in 2020.
“Subway is a privately held company and does not publicly disclose sales figures,” Trevor Haynes, Subway’s president for North America, said in an emailed statement in response to a request for comment on those figures. “On average, sales are doing well in the first half of 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019,” he added.
Subway “owned” customization when it first gained popularity, according to Robert Byrne, director of consumer and industry insights at Technomic. However, with the rise of fast casual, customization has become the norm. Customers can now create their own burritos, salads, sandwiches, and bowls, putting fierce competition in the space. “We want to continue to… dominate that space,” Chidsey said, as more restaurants offer custom options.
According to Chidsey, Subway’s research revealed that customers wanted more innovation.
With that in mind, the company decided to “focus on raising the quality of the core ingredients, since with those core ingredients you can make almost an infinite number of sandwich combinations,” Chidsey said.
It’s not all about personalization. “Health perceptions and what is healthy have evolved,” Byrne said. “From an ingredient standpoint, I know consumers would love to hear a little bit more about the sourcing.”
Subway’s tuna has recently been called into question, with a lawsuit alleging that the tuna sandwich is not actually made with the fish. The lawsuit has since been amended to claim that Subway’s tuna isn’t always made with skipjack or yellowfin tuna and isn’t always made with 100 percent tuna. The original lawsuit was deemed “meritless,” and “the new claims are untrue,” according to Subway, who also stated that “the lawsuit constitutes a reckless and improper attack on Subway’s brand.”
Subway is still proudly serving the product, saying that “the 100% wild-caught tuna remains a fan favorite among sub lovers.”