What was the biggest difference back then versus today in terms of running a restaurant?
Roger: In the early days, a strong entrepreneurial attitude was required because at that time, in the mid-1980s, people in our area did not know what a “Sub Sandwich” was. We had to sell them and train them on what our product was and what to expect. Today, everyone has an expectation and it is important that we are meeting and excelling our guests’ expectations.
What would you say is the most exciting opportunity in today’s franchising world? How has technology really changed the conversation?
Roger: This is an opportunity for a new generation of entrepreneurs to take the pros and cons of the past (our history) and add their energy, creativity and drive to build and make it relevant to their generation—put their mark on it! Technology has changed everything from the speed of service and customer service, to the way we get our message out through the advertising world. Newer generations understand the needs and desires of their generation. It will give them not only an opportunity but also an advantage in the business.
How have recent changes from Subway, from design to menu rollouts, really impacted the business?
Mark: When we initially rolled out the remodel package in restaurants across the country a few years ago, it was just enough to let guests know that something was different and unique, and to spice up what was otherwise becoming outdated. It signaled to guests that the times were changing at Subway, and it gave our employees a renewed sense of pride in their workplace. The restaurant redesign and remodels have really amplified the changes in how guests perceive our brand. In some areas, it’s even expanded the labor pool by increasing the number of candidates who are interested in joining the Subway team.
What’s the top challenge facing restaurants? And how are you tackling it?
Roger: Labor retention is a major challenge we face today, but we are working on increased efficiencies with and for our Sandwich Artists, as well as learning to engage more with not only our guests, but also with our employees.
Talk about community involvement. How important is that to running a successful franchise business?
Mark: Community involvement is at the core of our values. Thirty years ago, it was important to get the word out about the brand and who we are. Now, our focus is providing the community with a variety of better-for-you meal options, as well as staying top of mind in a constantly changing and hyper-competitive world. We want our guests to know that we are a part of their community. We want the local high school football coach to know he can count on us to provide delicious meals for his team.
What advice would you give a perspective franchisee looking to get into the business?
Mark: Be idealistic, but realistic with your goals and expectations. Always do more than what’s required, because what you put into it, is exactly what you get out it. Do your due diligence in advance (on the real estate, the customer base, the nearby competition, etc.) to avoid unpleasant surprises later. Consider the history, current management, and likely future trajectory of any brand before taking the plunge.