Beginning July 13, guests noticed fresh sauces, breads, and proteins. Among them: new deli-thin sliced ham and turkey, hickory-smoked bacon, smashed avocado, BelGioioso Fresh Mozzarella, and a tangy MVP Parmesan Vinaigrette.
Additionally, Subway debuted chef-recommended sandwiches such as the Turkey Cali Fresh, Steak Cali Fresh, and All-American Club.
Subway also completely redesigned its digital ordering experience and app to “provide the same customized and consistent experience found in Subway restaurants.” The updated platform features a new dashboard, improved ordering flow, and insight into out-of-stock items with further updates planned for the fall. In-store pickup and contactless curbside (a COVID measure) are now readily accessible. Subway developed a direct delivery feature to provide guests with the same pricing as in-store ordering and generate profitable growth for franchisees, the company said.
Subway devised fresh in-store merchandising and packaging and ignited its largest campaign ever that “brings our iconic brand and unique voice to life.” TV, uniforms, an “all-inclusive push for the guest to realize there’s a lot different about the brand, and a lot that you should come experience,” Chidsey says.
It was such a monumental effort Subway closed more than 10,000 locations across the country at 6 p.m. on July 12 so employees could get ready. When they opened the following day, Subway gave away up to a million free subs from 10 a.m. to noon.
As noted, Chidsey says Subway received a wake-up call from its competition. And so it had to ask itself, perhaps for the first time, “how do we get there?”
It wasn’t about chasing the next great sandwich, Chidsey says. It was finding Subway’s DNA and giving it an injection.
Now, when Subway reintroduces classics, it won’t just aim to tug on nostalgic consumers; it hopes to surprise them, too. The Chicken Bacon Ranch, for instance, is going to feature bacon Subway customers haven’t tried before.
“I think there’s going to be more than enough to have guests realize, ‘wow, something is really different at Subway,’” Chidsey says. “And they have invested heavily behind food innovation.”
Over the next 12–24 months, he adds, guests are going to constantly see improvements.
Yet Subway’s refresh isn’t solely a consumer-facing narrative. Reinvigorating the chain’s franchise base and getting operators enthused again is as critical as any marketing push. If not more so.
“In a way, it’s as much about a rallying cry for them as it is showing the consumer there’s something new and different,” Chidsey says.
When Chidsey interviewed for the job, Subway informed him there were more than 10,000 domestic franchisees in the system. “I thought, that’s impossible,” he says. “That’s more restaurants than Burger King has in the U.S.”
Simply, it’s a lot of people to motivate. COVID-19 didn’t help matters. “My joke is, every day you spend in a corporate headquarters is a wasted day because you learn so much more being out in the field with your operators,” Chidsey says. “On the frontlines. What you’re doing right. What you’re doing wrong.”
Before his stint at Burger King, Chidsey served as chairman and CEO for two corporate divisions of Cendant Corporation. He led the vehicle services side, which included Avis Rent A Car, Budget Rent A Car Systems, PHH and Wright Express, and the financial service group that featured Jackson Hewitt Tax Preparation Services and various membership and insurance companies. He also held international leadership roles with PepsiCo. “I’ve just been franchising my whole life,” Chidsey says.
While Chidsey admits there’s been friction at times with operators over the past year, the “vast, vast majority” are excited about Subway’s trajectory and shift from a development mindset to an experience-forward one. From maniacal growth to competitive awareness and response.
But don’t let superlatives tell the story. Chidsey says Subway’s results from January to April back a tale that’s easy to get behind.