Subway is in the midst of restructuring its C-suite, which includes the elimination of the restaurant chain’s global brand and innovation function and a new chief legal officer.
Len Van Popering, the chief brand and innovation officer, will leave Subway later in January as part of the re-organization, the company said. In addition to Popering moving on, Bethany Appleby, the chief legal officer, is also leaving Subway this month. Appleby will be replaced by Ilene Kolbert.
Subway said in a statement that it’s streamlining and simplifying the business by pushing talent and expertise closer to the regions in which it does business.
“We are committed to maximizing business performance, and streamlining our business model will help us realize greater efficiencies across the organization,” CEO John Chidsey said in a statement emailed to QSR. “We are thankful for the significant contributions each of them made to the Subway brand and our franchise owners.”
Popering, who previously served as VP of brand management, was promoted to chief brand and innovation officer in May. He joined the company in 2017 and was involved in Subway’s “Fresh Forward” redesign plans.
READ MORE: Can Subway slow its rate of closures?
Three other executives announced they would be leaving the company recently as well. Don Fertman, Subway's chief development officer, announced his retirement in August 2019. He will stay on as a development consultant through the end of 2020, with his duties transitioning to Bill McCane, VP of Global Development. CFO Dave Worroll announced his retirement after nearly 30 years with Subway. He is staying on through mid-2020 to help the company transition to new CFO, Ben Wells. Ian Martin, Subway's SVP of international, left the company at the end of 2019 as part of a division re-organization. Chidsey, the former chairman and CEO of Burger King Holdings, was named CEO of Subway in mid-November.
Subway has a little more than 23,650 units in the U.S., which is down from 2015 when it ended the year with 27,103—more than Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut combined. The restaurant chain had 24,798 locations at the end of 2018.
To help stem the closure rate, Subway reportedly instituted a new policy toward the end of last year requiring “mom-and-pop franchisees” who decline to renew their lease to speak with a committee at the Connecticut–based headquarters. The process is intended to help overextended franchisees find others to run their restaurants.
Additionally, In July 2019, Subway announced that it was providing more than $100 million to franchisees to assist with the Fresh Forward and Fresh Start rollouts, which feature bright color palettes, new kiosks, digital menu boards, and customization of sauces, toppings, and beverage options. The chain previously said it expects to refresh 10,500 U.S. locations by the end of this year.