This summer, Subway unveiled the biggest menu shift in the company's 56-year history, and customers have responded accordingly.
Before the menu changes were implemented, Subway saw positive same-store sales in Q2 compared to 2019, but when the Eat Fresh Refresh initiative debuted in mid-July, the innovation—including more than 20 changes to core items—put the sandwich chain in a position it hasn't seen in years. To start off, the initial launch week gave Subway its best weekly AUV in more than eight years.
Then in August, the brand experienced its best sales month since 2013. Domestic sales during the month rose more than 4 percent versus two years ago, with the top-performing quartile—comprising more than 5,000 restaurants—seeing a 33 percent increase. The top three quartiles combined, which is roughly 16,000 stores, averaged a nearly 14 percent bump.
Because of the jolt, Subway believes it will beat its previous 2021 sales projections by more than $1 billion.
"The journey to build a better Subway has begun, and the changes are having a positive impact on restaurant sales," CEO John Chidsey said in a statement. "As we continue this journey, our priority is working hand-in-hand with our dedicated network of franchisees to ensure they have the tools and support needed to grow their business and experience a positive return, resulting in franchisees continuing to invest in their business and the brand."
The Eat Fresh Refresh features 11 new and improved ingredients, six new or returning sandwiches, and four revamped signature sandwiches. The company elevated its turkey, ham, steak, and bacon, brought back roast beef and rotisserie chicken, and rolled out new products like the All-American Sub and the Turkey Cali Fresh. Subway spent roughly two years perfecting its bread, and received help from Nancy Silverton, a James Beard Award winner.
The company promoted its menu update with a "never-ending" TV spot featuring the world's greatest athletes, including Steph Curry, Serena Williams, Megan Rapinoe, and Tom Brady. It marked one of the largest media investments in Subway's history. CMO Carrie Walsh called it "the most innovative campaign and media strategy that I've ever seen."
In conjunction with the Eat Fresh Refresh, Subway upgraded its app, showcasing a new dashboard, less clicks during the ordering process, and insight into out-of-stock items. The chain also partnered with DoorDash to launch delivery through its app and website.
According to a survey of more than 66,000 guests, 83 percent said they were fans of the menu changes, but the brand isn't resting on its laurels. The company noted that its continuing to work with franchisees to gather feedback and ensure changes result in increased profitability and more traffic. Subway said customers should expect more improvements and innovations both from the culinary team and the digital department.
"We are getting an extremely positive reaction from our guests regarding all that is new at Subway. Our loyal regulars—in addition to many first-time guests—are commenting to our team that they taste a real difference in our new sandwiches and ingredients," David Liseno, a multi-unit Subway restaurant franchisee in Central New York State, said in a statement. "The Eat Fresh Refresh is just the beginning of the transformation ahead. With digital upgrades and more delivery options rolling out, I'm energized by the continued improvement happening at Subway."