Subway, which trimmed its U.S. unit count by 866 restaurants from 2016–2017 and 359 from 2015–17 after adding 4,445 stores the previous six years combined, simply wants to get this design to franchisees as quickly and seamlessly as possible. There’s good reason, too. Understanding why sales and traffic are better at Fresh Forward locations comes down to the synergy of the message and how Subway is evolving. The brand’s broad changes align with the design. At old stores, an outdated look and fresh message don’t mix to ultimate effect.
“The whole Fresh Forward décor, from the bright green and fresh elements, it all signals to consumers that there’s something new going on at Subway,” Steinwand says.
One example is the fresh vegetable display case installed behind the sandwich line. Five decades of slicing vegetables in-house didn’t resonate until customers could see it.
Steinwand adds that Subway’s culinary innovations, such as the signature wraps launched in March—the chain’s biggest core menu addition in the U.S. since Rotisserie-style Chicken in 2016—feel on par with into the bright design. More menu changes are coming, Steinwand says.
“You walk in and see new colors and structures, and that ties in really nicely with some of the new foods that we’ll be introducing,” she says. “And it ties in with some of the new flavors that will be coming. The bold colors also reflect where we’re going with our advertising and the messages that we’re sending out.”
Fresh Forward curates a different experience altogether.
“[Customers] grab their sandwich, and they sit down and can plug their phone in and charge it. They get to a place where they can go and say, ‘This is a place I can spend a bit more time in,’” Steinwand says. “And it’s just one of the ways that we’re trying to make it easy for them to choose to come see us again.”
Subway unveiled a less splashy, but equally disruptive platform recently. In August, Subway lifted the lid on its “Fresh Now” program. It was piloted in San Diego, California, and is now in about 500 U.S. locations. Subway expects the entire U.S. system to feature the Fresh Now updates by May 2019. In this case, Subway invested $80 million, Steinwand says, so it could make Fresh Now available to all of its stateside restaurants at no additional cost to operators. It’s funded by Subway, vendor partners, and existing marketing funds.
At its heart, Fresh Now is more of a culinary program than a décor one. But, again, it’s engineered to show “there’s something new at Subway,” she says.
There are “Signature Flavor Stations,” which feature new sauces and flavorings, including a signature Sub Spice blend, Mustard Seed Spread, Herbs & Lemon Seasoning, Subway Signature Herb Garlic Oil, Provencal Herbs, and fresh cracked sea salt and black pepper.
Guests also see new “Fresh Pour Beverage Stations” offering elevated options such as Watermelon Agua Fresca, Passion Fruit Agua Fresca, Homestyle Lemonade, Green Tea, and Unsweetened Black Tea.
Employees have new uniforms inspired by the fresh menu, and there are bold menu boards designed with personalization in mind.