By Lori B. Murray
Subway franchisee WendellRowell knows that creative marketing is key to his the success of his store. "You can't sit behind your counter at Subway and wait for your customers to show up," he says. "The more I am out there in front of my potential customers, it can only help." One way Rowell has chosen to accomplish this task is by creating a web site for his Charlotte, North Carolina, restaurant. He's had no small amount of help in the process: Subway franchisor Doctor's Associates, Inc., is providing Subway franchisees with a free web site for their locations-an offer that Rowell, and others, found difficult to pass up.
Rowell was researching a way to create his own web site about the same time Subway president and co-founder Fred DeLuca was inspired to create a web site for franchisees. At that time, lots of franchisees were trying to do it on their own-but most of them found it to be too costly. Says Rowell, "Even if I found someone to create it, the cost per month was almost prohibitive. If we were going to do it ourselves, we were going to have to make money off it immediately."
But DeLuca and his team decided there was strength in numbers, and they created a system where individual stores could be accessed through the main web site (www.subway.com ). Kara Leonardo, public and community relations coordinator at Subway, says, "We saw it as a way to bring our organization together."
Less than six months into the project, 485 stores have signed on. An additional twenty-three franchisees have web pages that are completely separate, mainly because they were created before the system was put together. Project leader Geoff Johnson says, "I think the main advantage is that it doesn't take a really technical person to do this. We chose to go with a menu-driven, automated system that requires little or no technical knowledge." Rowell agrees that corporate made it extremely easy to get his store's web site set up. He simply talked on the phone with someone who walked him through the steps.
Individual web sites include restaurant address, business hours, phone and fax numbers, e-mail address, and promotional and menu information with color graphics. Online job applications and customer feedback evaluation forms were added at the request of franchisees. Each web site is also issued a URL, or web address, to use on local advertising and promotional materials. But Rowell prefers to direct customers into his web site through the Store Locator on subway.com, which includes additional things such as nutritional information and kids' page. The real reason, he says, is because his store's web address is too lengthy, a problem he hopes will soon be improved.
As one of the original test sites, Rowell's web site was established last May, but he isn't sure yet whether or not business has increased as a result. However, there is one benefit he can readily measure, and that is the hiring of two stellar employees from the web site. "Those are results," he says, "that I can already track."
Johnson points to the customer feedback area as being a great service to franchisees because they get the information so quickly, and because the information is in addition to customer service at the corporate level. Although Subway is currently creating a fax form for franchisees so customers can fax in their orders to individual stores, Johnson believes that it may only be the predecessor to on-line ordering. "As more people get on line," Johnson says, "the value actually goes up."
At present, the system adds a lot of continuity to Subway franchisees' migration to the web. But Johnson is cautious about the relative newness of the project. "We are trying to listen to what the franchisee needs," he says, "as well as the consumer. We get daily feedback on new features"-the kind of feedback that can make this web site a success.This article originally appeared in QSR Magazine. All rights reserved.