In honor of Subway’s 54th anniversary, the world’s largest chain gathered some of its multi-generational franchisees and held a photoshoot. The brand wanted to acknowledge the operators that have stuck around throughout the decades, and helped Subway scale to nearly 25,000 domestic units.
The Hammonds have been in Subway’s system for more than 34 years. Greg Hammond joined the company in 1989 when co-founder Fred DeLuca personally asked him to get on board. For Hammond’s daughters, Tara Canfield and Chelsie Kelly, Subway was their first job. Today, they’re both franchise owners and business development agents.
The family took some time to chat with QSR about the journey, and what it takes to thrive for the long run.
What has it been like to watch your two daughters come up through the Subway system, from sandwich artists to franchise owners and now development agents?
Greg Hammond: Proud and humbling to say the least. I’m so happy that they made the decision to carry on the family business. It’s been amazing to watch them grow and succeed.
How big of a topic is Subway at the family dinner table?
Greg Hammond: A very big topic! Early on in the business, I had to spend many hours in the restaurant. Some evenings, I only saw the family at the dinner table. Naturally, work would be the topic of conversation, and surprisingly, the kids were interested. As they grew, they made the decision to work in the business, and started asking their own questions at the dinner table. By working together and talking things through, the business felt like a family and instilled a growing love for the brand.
Tara Canfield Hammond: Subway is in my DNA. I grew up with the brand and learned the business every step of the way. At my Kindergarten graduation, every child went on stage and said what they wanted to be when they grew up. My parents have a video of me saying, “I want to be a Subway Manager!”
When it comes to working with family, how have you made it work? What advice would you give someone who wants to give it a shot?
Greg Hammond: Communication is key! Working with family, you can’t hold grudges. If you have a disagreement with a co-worker, you can’t just leave work and escape to your family at home because your family IS your work. You also have to have a little faith in each other’s abilities, but an understanding in each other’s weaknesses and capitalizing on each other’s strengths.
What kind of work ethic and qualities do you think franchising instills in young people? What life lessons can you learn through this entrepreneurial-driven path?
Greg Hammond: I believe that work ethic starts at a very young age. When looking at resumes, we don’t simply focus on grades or areas of study. We also focus on the extra-curriculars. Anyone that excels in group/team atmospheres and shows discipline, as well as motivation, is a perfect fit for a franchise like Subway.
Tara Canfield Hammond: My dad put my sister and me to work in the restaurants the moment we turned 16. We had to learn how to balance our schedules between work, athletics, and school. He taught us how to budget with the little money we had coming in from working at the restaurants, which was an invaluable lesson to learn early on.
Having been with the brand for 31 years, how is the segment and Subway changing to meet evolving demand? From the design to tech updates, what are some of the biggest initiatives from the ground level?
Greg Hammond: It’s been a wonderful journey watching the Subway brand grow and evolve. I truly believe Subway has made tremendous strides. Guests love the new restaurant design. The new look and feel offers guests an enhanced dining experience unlike anything they’ve seen before with new menu items, digital menu boards, and more. It’s also exciting to see the advancements the brand has made through technology with the Subway App and the Subway MyWay Rewards loyalty program.
How do you think customers are responding to the changes?
Greg Hammond: Guest feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re putting a renewed focus on food innovation, giving guests exactly what they crave—exciting menu items.
Talk about the year opening 22 stores. What was that like?
Greg Hammond: It was certainly the hardest I’ve ever worked in my entire life! Luckily, I was young and highly motivated, but Subway was there to provide the guidance and resources I needed to make it happen. At the time, West Virginia was in need of new business and there was a crucial point of market share in the state, which spurred momentum and brand recognition in a short period.
What is some advice you would give to someone aspiring to become a franchisee?
Greg Hammond: Work hard and stay motivated. Once you make the jump to become a Subway Franchise Owner, it’s important to be hands-on working in your restaurant and offering excellent guest service. No one will take care of your restaurant, as you will. Write your own success story.
Chelsie Hammond-Kelly: Don’t be afraid to work hard! Run the business yourself; be engaged in every single touch point—don’t just be an investor.
Tara Canfield Hammond: Work in your restaurant for a minimum of six months, so you can see the daily obstacles your employees experience and gain credible knowledge of how to handle them. Too often, new Franchise Owners rely on the idea of Subway being a “sure-investment,” and don’t put in the time or work required to have a successful business.
It’s also important to treat your employees, not how YOU want to be treated, but how you want them to treat your guests, and watch your business grow. I can give you the formula for making money. That’s the easy part. What makes or breaks your business is how you manage people.
What’s the biggest challenge you face today running restaurants?
Greg Hammond: I think just about everyone can agree that the biggest hurdle in the industry today is finding and retaining staff.
How much has giving back and community involvement played a role in your restaurants?
Greg Hammond: Giving back plays a huge role in everything we do! Community is a core value of the Subway brand and we believe community giving is just as important as growing profits. The more you give, the more you receive. We focus on school and community athletics to promote family engagement, and active lifestyles of all ages! We work with Little Leagues, food banks, Wounded Warriors, high schools and universities. We also support the Fellowship of Christian Athletes group and their involvement in our state.
Tara Canfield Hammond: Community giving is engrained in everything we do. Without our guests, we have no business, and it’s important to show your appreciation. One of the greatest challenges of being part of a global franchise is earning the trust of people in our community. Most don’t realize we are a family business that is locally owned and operated. In fact, every Subway restaurant is individually owned and operated. I always say, we are not a “big company in a small town, but rather a small company in a big way.”
One of my favorite recent experiences was a Trick-or-Treat event held at a local park. We brought “Subman” to pass out candy, entertain the kids, and set up a table to sell a handful of items as a dinner option for parents as they walked around. Hundreds of families turned out for the event, and we were able to donate half the proceeds to a local high school. It’s important to us to show up in ways like this to show that we ourselves are a part of the community.
Chelsie Hammond-Kelly: Local community involvement is extremely important for a successful business! We live in the same communities that our employees and our guests live in. How can we expect them to support our business if we don’t support them in return? And that starts in our restaurants. Any time I’m in one of my restaurants and I see a regular walk in, I like to pay for their meal and thank them for their loyalty and support. I also like to clean tables, so I can talk with our guests to make sure they have the best experience possible and to make a more personal connection.
Where do you see the future of Subway going?
Greg Hammond: I’m excited for the future at Subway! Subway has refocused their development strategy to align with today’s changing landscape. They are choosing the right locations, rolling out a new restaurant design, with new menu options that our guests are excited about and have shared positive feedback.
Chelsie Hammond-Kelly: As someone who has grown up in the Subway family, I can honestly say this is truly a very exciting time. The recent menu innovations are probably the most exciting aspect, closely followed by the entire rebranding of the company.