There are a lot (a lot) of opinions out there about running a business with family. How have the Grewals made it work?
Bob Grewal: We stay out of each other’s way and have clear roles and responsibilities. Each part of the business is run by different family members, based on expertise. For example, my cousin Shawn runs leasing in LA, while I handle local marketing. Our niece is a controller, so she handles accounting. We respect and trust each person’s role in the business.
What would you say is the best part of having 30-plus family members involved?
Bob Grewal: Much like Subway restaurants, family is the core of our values and there’s a level of trust and loyalty you have with family that’s harder to find in others.
What is the toughest challenge?
Bob Grewal: The challenge is that we talk about business all the time! Even at family events. Shawn usually tries to keep us focused and find times to not talk about work, but it’s difficult!
Is there a career path you set up for family members who want to get involved?
Bob Grewal: No one in the family is guaranteed a spot in the business. Many family members start out working in the restaurants, learning the ins and outs of the business. In some cases, they become Franchise Owners and run their own restaurant. Once they have proved themselves in that arena and have developed a passion and intimate knowledge of what it’s like to run a restaurant, they might join the family busines—there are no handouts. In this business, you need to always do the work and prove your value. We don’t rest on our laurels.
Jesse Grewal: My earliest memories are of being in a Subway restaurant. It was my summer and weekend job throughout high school and college. I’d make sandwiches, sweep floors, etc. Starting from the ground-up, you get a great understanding of the nuts and bolts of the business. After graduating college and working as a CPA for a few years, I got into the family business, as I wanted to help it grow and work for myself.
Talk about the community aspect of your franchises. How important has that been to the locations’ success? And how big of an impact do you think that has on a multi-unit chain in general when you’re trying to grow?
Bob Grewal: Like the Subway brand, giving back to the community is very important to our family and our business. We work with a variety of local organizations donating money, food, and our time to help those in need.
Every year, we participate in a big donation drive to the LA Rescue Mission that helps the homeless in L.A. We get others in our network, including Franchise Owners within the territory, to participate as well, and have been excited to donate about $25,000-$30,000 a year for the past several years. In addition, we often work with the Red Cross to support disaster relief efforts in Southern California by providing food.
It is imperative for any business to support the local communities in which they live and work. We take great pride in giving back and our goal is to inspire future entrepreneurs by fostering education. We participate in outreach to schools and universities where our restaurants are located, including our Alma maters. Hardy made a big donation of $1 million to the university he attended in Montreal to endow MBA scholarships to inspire future entrepreneurs.
Hardy Grewal: We also help communities internationally. Last year, more than 70 members of our Subway family worked to help about 400 people in India with limited access to healthcare get eye exams and eyeglasses.
What are some community-driven best practices you deploy at locations? Grand openings. Giving back. Etc.
Bob Grewal: Many Subway Franchise Owners participate in a number of community-lead initiatives and Grand Opening celebrations. At Subway, it’s important that the Franchise Owners have that freedom to do what works best for them and the communities they serve. In our restaurants, we host Grand Openings and prize giveaways for our guests for our new and remodeled restaurants.
Where do you think the sandwich category is going? And how is Subway evolving to stay ahead?
Bob Grewal: The sandwich category is growing. There are many new players over the past few years, so the competition has greatly expanded. However, Subway has paved the path and has always been ahead of many of its competitors. The brand created the model of “build-it-as-you-go,” which allowed guests to see their sandwich being made. We have added a huge capability and competitive edge with our food innovation team and approach. This allows us to quickly test and learn, as well as get ahead of trends. We’ve seen this most recently with new products from the Hand-Spun Halo Top Milkshakes to the Beyond Meatball Marinara.