But Fresh Forward is where the needle is moving.
The updated package, complete with a fresh vegetable display case, bold “S” choice mark logo, bright color palette, digital menu boards, and kiosks in some stores, is mandatory on all new openings. However, Subway’s unit count has been retracting in recent years, not growing. After reducing its U.S. count by 866 restaurants from 2016–2017, Subway dipped below 25,000 in the U.S. this year, the company said in January. That's roughly a 1,000-store drop from the 25,908 Subway closed 2017 with.
A LOOK BACK: Step inside Subway's bold new Fresh Forward design.
Subway’s “optimization plan” centers on relocations, remodels, and an effort to rework the system to create a fleet of fewer, but more profitable, restaurants.
Prior to the 866-store decline from 2016–2017, Subway added 4,456 locations the previous six years combined. At the end of 2017, Subway had US. Systemwide sales of $10.8 billion and average-unit volumes of $416,000. AUVs were $422,000 the year before and sales were $11.3 billion.
There’s no secret why Subway is in a hurry to accelerate remodels. In September 2018, the company’s Fresh Forward design was in 465 locations. And the results compared to legacy units were stark.
Subway at the time sampled a collection of Fresh Forward U.S. stores and juxtaposed them with old ones. Gross profit was up 11 percent. Traffic lifted more than 8 percent.
In those Fresh Forward designs at relocated restaurants versus remodels, Subway saw an even steeper hike in sales and traffic—about 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively.