Subway reported another year of record sales, fueled by an ongoing transformation journey targeting menu innovation, restaurant modernization, and improving the guest experience.
The company finished 2022 with eight straight quarters of positive comps and exceeded sales projections. Global same-store sales increased 9.2 percent versus 2021 and 29.1 percent against 2020. In North America, comps grew 7.8 percent year-over-year; the top 75 percent (roughly 17,000 restaurants) saw 12.5 percent growth. Additionally, these units consistently surpassed decade-old weekly AUV sales marks.
“As part of our journey to transform the brand, we are improving across every aspect of our business and, after two years of record sales results, we can confidently say that Subway is getting its swagger back,” CEO John Chidsey said in a statement. “Across every region, the team’s efforts have set the stage for another year of strategic and profitable growth and exciting enhancements to our guest experience.”
The brand attributed sales growth to its Subway Series, a menu launched in July 2022 that allows customers to order sandwiches by name and number as opposed to customization. Additionally, the company elevated its catering program with easier order options, pick up and delivery, and upgraded packaging, and expanded its launch of nontraditional platforms, like Subway Grab & Go and smart fridges. The chain reported in the fall that roughly 5,900 nontraditional locations in the U.S. and Canada—about 25 percent of the North American footprint—experienced a 13 percent increase in same-stores sales during the first three quarters of 2022.
In terms of development, 8,500 locations in North America now offer Subway's new "Fresh Forward" design, which includes LED lighting, new floor coverings, containers, tables, colors, and chairs. In 2022, 2,600 remodels were completed. An additional 3,600 stores will undergo the change in 2023. Internationally, Subway has more than 5,300 future restaurant commitments.
The concept is also rethinking its growth strategy by adopting an experienced-oriented approach as opposed to development-first. This means bringing in more multi-unit operators who own other chains and fewer mom-and-pop franchisees.
“There is currently a lot of excitement around the Subway brand amongst fellow franchisees, their teams and guests,” Dennis Reed, a multi-unit franchisee for over 25 years, said in a statement. “The company’s focus on elevating the guest experience and operations over the past 24 months has resulted in positive feedback about the brand’s updated, energetic and innovative new menu and look, and ultimately, is leading to an increase in traffic and sales at my restaurants.”
The news comes a few weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported Subway is exploring a sale. The company could be valued at more than $10 billion. Also, The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation—the nonprofit founded by late cofounder Dr. Peter Buck and his wife—announced that he donated his 50 percent ownership stake to the organization. The family of Fred DeLuca, the cofounder who passed away in 2015, owns the other half of the company.
Subway has nearly 37,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. It is the largest restaurant chain in terms of unit count in the U.S. and the second-largest globally, with McDonald's being the leader.