Subway Sandwich Vending Machines To Start Popping Up Across The US

Subway began embracing grab-and-go foods with pre-made sandwiches back in 2020 at retail points like casinos and gas stations, per CNN. Subway Grab & Go is now available at 400 locations, and the chain is expected to continue expanding this concept into next year. CNN sees the Grab & Go concept as a way for Subway to reach more sandwich lovers since its number of physical restaurants appears to be dwindling — the number of brick-and-mortar locations has dropped for the fifth year in a row.

Subway could well be the biggest chain restaurant that looks to be buying into a trend that picked up steam during the COVID-19 pandemic — an event which heightened a need for a contactless way for customers and their clients to interact. One New Jersey restauranteur, Joe Scutarello, tells Food & Wine that technological innovations like Subway's new Grab & Go fridges address important cost concerns. He says: "When you look at restaurant accounting, there are three big costs: the rent, the food, and the employees. So if we can cut down the front-of-house costs, that's going to make it much easier to be successful and profitable in the restaurant business." 

In 2020, Subway was just using regular refrigerators as a pickup point, but the chain just announced a "smart" version to improve the customer experience in 2022.

A fully interactive Grab & Go Fridge

The humble vending machine has been updated to sell pre-made Subway sandwiches in special, fully unattended, and interactive "Grab & Go" smart fridges. Subway says these special refrigerators will be equipped with artificial intelligence and natural language processing, which will allow customers to "speak" to the unit and ask about the products in it. The chain adds that the shelves are equipped with weight sensors, that "help ensure [that] guests are charged correctly,  resulting in a completely contactless and cashless transaction." And once a transaction is completed, UV-C light sanitation is used to keep products clean.

Subway says the new device, which is restocked daily by a nearby franchise, was road-tested at the University of California San Diego where it was installed in September, and the company has said the feedback has been "extremely positive." 

The company's director of innovation for non-traditional development, Karla Martinez, was quoted in a press release saying: "Subway Grab & Go has quickly gained traction as consumers are drawn to sandwiches made fresh daily from a brand they know and love, versus competitor items that rely on a 14-day plus shelf life." She adds that the new smart fridges will be installed in airports, college campuses, and hospitals.