Subway's 'Transformation Journey' Has Triggered Impressive Results

If you love sandwiches, the chances are good that you've stepped into a Subway on more than one occasion. One of the largest fast food chains in the world, Subway boasts about 36,000 locations worldwide, second only to McDonald's and its more than 40,000, according to Restaurant Clicks. Known for its "Eat Fresh" tagline, the chain has suffered more than a few embarrassments in recent years: In 2015, one year after sales started to decline, former pants-size-dropping spokesperson Jared Fogle received a 15-year prison sentence for charges of child pornography, according to the New York Post, and in 2021, the chain made headlines for its "tuna salad scandal," in which it was sued by two customers who claimed to have analyzed its popular sandwich filling for any tuna DNA and found none (via The Washington Post).

In spite of these difficulties, Subway is doing really well lately. According to a press release, recent revamps, including last summer's Eat Fresh Refresh campaign and the new Subway Series menu of 12 new sandwiches, have boosted sales over the past 18 months, leading to average annual sales that are consistently higher than the chain has seen since 2012.

Changes to the Subway experience have spurred sales

Subway, the mammoth sandwich chain with locations all across the globe, has been on a major "transformation journey" over the past 18 months, according to a press release — and those efforts are paying off. The release notes that positive changes kicked off last summer with the chain's Eat Fresh Refresh campaign, which completely revamped the Subway menu and added new, higher-quality sauces, proteins and breads (via a press release). The chain followed up that menu revamp with July's debut of the Subway Series, an all-star lineup of 12 new cheesesteaks, Italianos, chicken subs, and club sandwiches that feature prominently in all Subway locations and can easily be ordered by their number (via a press release).

These changes have paid off for Subway. The chain reported a 7.4% increase in same-store sales during the Subway Series eight-week launch window this past summer, compared to the same eight-week launch window last year during the Eat Fresh Refresh launch. Subway also saw a 8.4% increase in same-store sales in Q3 (July, August, and September) this year, as compared to Q3 last year. Finally, the chain's average unit volume (AUV) — i.e., average sales across all a chain's locations (via Franchise Frankness) — per week are consistently topping Subway's previous records.

Evolving from a 'default choice' to a 'destination'

In the past, sandwich lovers looking for a delicious handcrafted 'wich may have opted to visit a neighborhood deli or a glossy specialty foods store. But with its recent transformations, Subway appears to be looking to draw those types of customers into its stores, with more elevated sandwiches on their Subway Series menu offering flavors such as fresh mozzarella cheese, Genoa salami, roasted garlic aioli, and Italian herb and cheese bread (via MultiVu).

"The results from the Subway Series launch and the positive reaction from guests and franchisees demonstrates that our transformation strategy is working," Trevor Haynes, president of Subway North America, said in the release. "As we continue to evolve from a default choice to a destination for our guests, our priority remains working alongside our franchisees to find new and exciting opportunities to elevate the guest experience and drive profitability and traffic."