21 Popular Sandwich Chains, Ranked

It's lunchtime and your stomach is grumbling. You're looking for a quick, delicious, and ideally, healthy meal that will keep you full as you go through the rest of your day. A quick trip to the sandwich shop should satisfy your hunger, but which one will offer you the best options? While some of the best-known sandwich chains in the U.S. are a go-to for many sandwich lovers — considering brand-name chains tend to be the most widely available for city and rural dwellers alike — we have to admit that ingredients might leave something to be desired.

While some sandwich chains are all about fresh ingredients, hearty bread, and unique toppings, others tend to fall a bit flat. Lackluster sauces, stale bread, and poor-quality ingredients can all make your lunch break take a sour turn. 

We've rounded up the nation's favorite sandwich chains and evaluated them based on overall quality, dedication to freshness, and creativity in their offerings, among other factors. Here we ranked these chains from worst to best to help with your next lunchtime decision.

21. Subway

To sandwich connoisseurs everywhere, it will probably come as no surprise that Subway is at the bottom of our rankings. They have also been the subject of multiple scandals regarding their ingredients over the years.

From the inclusion of azodicarbonamide (a chemical used to make yoga mats) in Subway's bread back in 2014 (per CBS News) to the more recent 2021 scandal where the chain's "tuna salad" mixture was reportedly discovered to not have any tuna DNA in it (per The Washington Post), the chain has not inspired consumer confidence about its ingredients. While management claims that Subway's transformation journey led it to introduce new sandwiches and revamp the menu, resulting in sales finally increasing again, it's hard not to be skeptical about the chain's freshness. While you are able to build your own sandwich here, and some customers value that flexibility and the chain's affordability, the lower prices seem to be reflected in the quality of the ingredients you get.

20. Quiznos Sub

Also near the bottom of our ranking is Quiznos. Unlike Subway, Quiznos is not focused on build-your-own sandwiches and instead relies on a regular pre-made menu of offerings. When Quizno's was at its peak, it seemed to be offering something that was a step above Subway by specializing in toasted sandwiches over cold sandwiches. This approach should result in a warm and delicious sandwich at the end, but the flavors still seem to fall short.

Quiznos has also been declining for some time now, as its customer base has slowly transitioned to newer sandwich shops. The company filed for bankruptcy back in 2014, with Quiznos locations continually disappearing. The chain went from having thousands of locations across the U.S. to only having a few hundred. While some Quiznos sandwiches are ranked better than others, overall it's on our miss list. 

19. Blimpie

While Blimpie's tagline claims that it is "America's Sub Shop," it certainly doesn't rise to the top of our list. Its color scheme and vibe may seem more similar to Subway, but according to The New York Times, the truth is that Blimpie's founders were actually inspired in the 1960s by another well-known sandwich shop on our list, Jersey Mike's, which was then simply known as Mike's Submarines as a popular solitary sandwich shop in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. The three founders of Blimpie — Tony Conza, Peter DeCarlo, and Angelo Bandassare — were also in New Jersey at the time, and were impressed by the success and sandwiches that everyone loved from Mike's Submarines. 

While imitating Mike's sandwiches worked out for Blimpie at first, Jersey Mike's has continued to increase in popularity while Blimpie has been on the decline for quite some time. Between 2001 and 2011, the company closed more than half of its stores, according to USA Today, and hasn't likely garnered many new fans since.

18. Portillo's

We understand the inclusion of Portillo's might bring up the age-old question: Are hot dogs considered a sandwich? However, regardless of where you stand in that debate, you can enjoy a yummy sandwich at Portillo's. While the chain may be well-known for its hot dogs, sausages, and burgers, it is also a hotspot among Chicago's best cheap eats for its Italian beef sandwiches, which definitely qualify as sandwiches in the more classic sense. An Italian beef consists of slices of seasoned roast beef served in a roll and topped with a blend of pickled vegetables called giardiniera. The sandwich is then dipped back into the beef's juices. 

While Italian beef sandwiches are a delicious classic Chicago food, there are better local restaurants in Chicago to get this specialty, which puts Portillo's fairly low in our ranking.

17. Jimmy John's

Since the company was founded in Illinois in 1983, Jimmy John's has expanded all across the U.S. and earned itself some passionate supporters. In fact, in 2022 the chain even opened its first New York City location in Brooklyn. Recently, Jimmy John's introduced a loyalty program that aims to personalize rewards for its customers. Overall, the chain seems to be succeeding as of late.

However, while the chain has made claims to be freakily fresh and fast, that hasn't always been the case. The truth is that Jimmy John's has been the source of multiple food poisoning outbreaks over the years, particularly in relation to the sprouts that the chain used as a sandwich topping. While the sprouts have since been removed from the menu, the fact that this outbreak happened multiple times over the course of several years before the issue was resolved suggests that food safety might not always be a top priority at Jimmy John's.

16. Wawa

If you've never spent much time in the Mid-Atlantic, you may be a bit confused by Wawa's inclusion on this list. You may be thinking to yourself, "Isn't that a gas station and convenience store chain?" The answer would be, technically, yes, but Pennsylvania's Wawa convenience stores are much more than that. 

In reality, the chain has a lot more (and generally tastier) food to offer than a typical, small convenience store does. It has developed somewhat of a cult following in its region. High on the list of Wawa fans' favorite offerings are its hoagies (the local term for a sub sandwich). The chain's hoagies are, perhaps surprisingly, made with high-quality ingredients, including bread that is baked fresh daily. The chain's offerings are so well-loved that Wawa is expanding to the Midwest, its first time opening locations outside of the Mid-Atlantic.

15. Which Wich

For those who love the Subway method of customizing every ingredient on your sandwich, but are looking for better quality ingredients, Which Wich may be the perfect choice for you. Which Wich is even more efficient at the selection process than Subway, because they give you paper sandwich bags that also serve as order slips to check off all of the ingredients you would like. This means no waiting around until it's your turn to look through the glass window to start creating your perfect sandwich.

What you might not know about Which Wich is that this chain is also passionate about giving back to the communities that surround their locations. The chain's Spread the Love program provides a way to help people suffering from food insecurity. Whenever a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is ordered from Which Wich, they donate one to someone in need. While the ingredients and flavors at Which Wich may not be anything to write home about, the ordering system and charitable endeavors have certainly earned the chain some fans.

14. Schlotzsky's Deli

When the first Schlotzsky's opened back in 1971, you didn't need a menu to put in your order. How could you choose your food without a menu? Well, in the beginning, the restaurant only sold one sandwich! 

Now called "The Original" on its since-expanded menu, the first sandwich that the chain offered was the owners' take on a muffuletta, a giant round Italian sandwich filled with olive salad and Italian deli meats and cheeses. The sandwich is so large that it is typically used to serve multiple people at a time, and is often cut into quarters and shared. The chain also now has a wide variety of other sandwich offerings, so don't hesitate to give Schlotzsky's a try, even if the muffuletta doesn't seem like it's for you.

13. Penn Station East Coast Subs

Despite the chain's name, the truth is that Penn Station East Coast Subs actually has absolutely nothing to do with New York City's Penn Station train hub. The chain actually originated in Ohio, and it has no locations in what might seem to be the most obvious states: New York and Pennsylvania. Penn Station got its name because owner Jeff Osterfeld wanted people to associate the chain with the East Coast, according to the New York Times. Nonetheless, Osterfeld was hoping to create his own takes on various popular East Coast sandwiches, especially the Philly cheesesteak, which he had researched extensively. 

While it's pretty safe to say that most East Coasters would dismiss Osterfeld's attempt at the Philly cheesesteak as inauthentic and assert their preference for the real thing, Midwesterners can't get enough of them. So, if you have a Penn Station East Coast Subs location near you (and you haven't fallen in love with a real Philly cheesesteak before), you may want to give it a try and see what the chain's fans are raving about. 

12. Lennys Grill & Subs

Best known for their cheesesteaks and deli sandwiches, Lennys Grill & Subs has been serving up freshly made sandwiches since 1998. Based out of Tennessee, with many locations being in the South, the chain brought Philadelphia-style sandwiches to Southern customers. The chain boasts bread that is said to be baked fresh daily and high-quality, freshly sliced meats and cheeses on all of its sandwiches. 

Some of the chain's most popular sandwiches include hot and cold Italian subs and various twists on the Philly cheesesteak, including an original version, one with bacon added, and one with chicken instead of steak as the main ingredient. So, if you find yourself in the South craving a Philly-style sub, stop by Lennys to satisfy your cravings.

11. Capriotti's Sandwich Shop

Ever since its first location opened in Delaware in 1976, Capriotti's Sandwich Shop has pursued a simple mission to make delicious sandwiches for turkey lovers everywhere. With homemade whole-roasted turkeys and quality ingredients, the restaurant gained so much popularity that it had no choice but to expand. 

What sets Capriotti's apart from many other sandwich chains is that they actually prepare the meat in-house. This means the restaurant still roasts its own turkeys before slicing and serving. The chain's most popular sandwich, called The Bobbie, is a dream for lovers of Thanksgiving leftovers. This sandwich — made of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mayo all piled on fresh-baked bread — can satisfy a post-Thanksgiving sandwich craving any time of year. 

However, The Bobbie is far from everything that the chain has to offer. It even added vegetarian sandwiches to its menu, so these days a stop at Capriotti's can satisfy those who don't love turkey, as well.

10. Publix

While it may only have locations in eight states, the Publix supermarket chain is consistently ranked as one of the best grocery stores in the U.S. So, sandwiches are far from the only thing the chain has to offer its customers. However, its sandwiches are certainly up there among its most beloved offerings. Affectionately called "Pub subs" for short, Publix sub sandwiches have gained a huge fan base. Pub subs come in a variety of flavors, ranging from classic Italian to chicken cordon bleu to the popular chicken tender sub. 

While most of Publix's sandwiches are subs, they also offer other options like a variety of wraps. Of course, plenty of ready-to-eat sandwich accompaniments are also available in each store, from varied types of coleslaw to macaroni salad. With Publix offering convenience, customizable options, and quality ingredients in its sandwiches, it's no surprise that the chain is favored by so many Southerners.

9. McAlister's Deli

After its 1989 launch in Mississippi, McAlister's Deli expanded to over 500 U.S. locations, and its renown continues to grow. Nonetheless, this chain stays true to its Southern roots with its signature sweet tea, which is even available by the gallon.

In addition to an impressive array of sandwiches — including a tangy-yet-savory Cuban, a variety of clubs, and grilled specialties like the Reuben and Rachel — McAlister's proffers a popular selection of stuffed baked potatoes, like the corned beef spud topped with Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. Soups, salads, and nachos round out the varied menu, while quality desserts like red velvet cookies and Oreo cheesecake make McAlister's a tempting destination with a broad selection.

Another nice feature of McAlister's is its selection of toasted cheese sandwiches with meat options for kids. A child-size portion of mini pretzel dogs is also available, and so tempting that you might just order another plateful for yourself.

8. Jersey Mike's

If you're a fan of Jersey Mike's delicious subs, then it might surprise you to learn that the chain was actually founded by a 17-year-old high school student. As the brand tells it, Peter Cancro was just a normal teenager who worked at a local sub shop in New Jersey called Mike's Submarines, until the owners decided to sell — and Cancro decided to buy it. 

After Cancro took over in 1975, the shop gained massive popularity for its tasty sandwiches and customer service, and Cancro decided to franchise it under the name Jersey Mike's. The restaurant has continued to gain popularity since franchising, and there are now over 2,800 locations operating or being developed.

For those who prefer the build-your-own philosophy, "Mike's Way" may not be for you: All of the chain's signature subs are served topped with fresh lettuce, onions, tomatoes, oil, vinegar, and spices. However, all of the sandwiches are prepared to order right in front of you. Jersey Mike's certainly gets huge points for overall freshness and having a signature topping style.

7. Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs specializes in hot gourmet sub sandwiches that will definitely leave you coming back for more. The chain was founded back in 1994 by brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, who are both actual former firefighters. The chain boasts premium meats and cheeses piled high on toasty bread for its hungry customers to enjoy.

Although Firehouse Subs' focus is mainly on hot sandwiches, you can also get any of their sandwiches cold if you prefer. Additionally, while they have a signature menu with lots of great predetermined combinations, you also have the option to build your own sandwich starting with any of their premium meats (or veggies for a vegetarian option) as the base. Firehouse Subs truly offers its customers the best of both worlds, with the flexibility to choose the type of sandwich that works best for them, always made with quality ingredients.

6. Au Bon Pain

Since Au Bon Pain literally translates to "from good bread," you would probably assume that this French-style chain has some of the highest quality bread and baked goods around — and you would be right. The delicious French breads and croissants make a great starting base for the popular sandwiches. The team bakes all of the bread products fresh daily from basic ingredients to ensure the best quality. Au Bon Pain is also widely revered for its selection of excellent soups and salads, giving patrons a variety of options for lighter meals.

While the chain's popularity has been waning in recent years, it's on the road to changing that. Au Bon Pain has big plans to revamp its cafes to better suit its busy customers. This includes adding a new grab-and-go section for customers in a hurry, which is particularly well suited for the locations within commuter hubs. 

5. Potbelly Sandwich Shop

If the atmosphere in Potbelly Sandwich Shop seems unique to you, you're not alone. It's likely because the chain actually had a rather unusual start. What many people may not know, is that back in the '70s in Chicago, Potbelly founder Peter Hastings opened a vintage home goods store and decided to sell toasted sandwiches to his customers as a fun way to use a vintage potbelly stove that he acquired. Before he knew it, locals were raving about his sandwiches, so he decided to switch his focus to food. To this day, each location has its own antique potbelly stove in order to stay true to its namesake.

While its origin story is certainly unique, Potbelly's ingredients are also just delicious. Part of the key to Potbelly's success since its antique shop days is its perfectly toasty sub sandwich bread. Then, piled high on top are thick stacks of quality meats, cheeses, veggies, sauces, and more. All of this paired with quick service and homey vibes make Potbelly a must-stop sandwich shop.

4. Jason's Deli

Ever since the first Jason's Deli location opened in Texas in 1976, the chain has been progressively eliminating unhealthy ingredients from its menu. Back in 2005, the chain claims to be the first national restaurant to eliminate all trans fats from its menu. It also eliminated non-naturally occurring MSG a few years later. The chain continued its mission by reducing high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. It's clear that Jason's Deli has prioritized its customers' health from very early on, and truly stood out in the sea of fast-food chains serving less-than-great-for-you options with these initiatives.

Customers at Jason's Deli can feel confident that the sandwiches (and other food or drinks) they order are backed up by a mission of serving wholesome ingredients with family values. From premium meats and cheeses to fresh produce and organic ingredients, you can't go wrong with a sandwich from Jason's Deli.  

3. Mendocino Farms

West Coast favorite Mendocino Farms has been serving up tasty sandwiches, salads, and more since 2005. While the chain unfortunately only has locations in California, Texas, and Washington state, if you ever find yourself near one of its locations, we highly recommend you give it a try. 

The ingredients section of the chain's website boasts its commitment to fresh, high-quality, and antibiotic-free ingredients. Toasty bread, crunchy veggies, and unique sauces all come together to make the sandwiches at Mendocino Farms top-notch. The chain also offers a wide variety of options for different dietary restrictions, including gluten-free bread and vegan dressing and sauce options to help accommodate any customer. The only thing that could make Mendocino Farms better is if the chain added more locations in new states!

2. Panera Bread

If you're looking for a place to sit and enjoy delicious sandwiches — as well as mouthwatering mac and cheese, tasty soups, and fresh salads — Panera is the place for you. Just as with any good sandwich, the starting point of what makes Panera's sandwiches so good is that the chain is also a bakery that makes its own bread. However, the chain's commitment to good flavor and fresh ingredients goes far beyond its baked goods. 

In Panera's beliefs section of its website, the sandwich shop lists clean foods, selective sourcing, humane treatment of animals, and respect for the planet as some of its main areas of focus when putting together ingredients for the menu. Sticking to these goals leads the chain to be highly selective about the ingredients that end up in its sandwiches, leading to better-quality food for its consumers. Panera's menu is full of delicious options, but their sandwiches will always be a top choice of ours.

1. Pret A Manger

Since starting out in London in 1986, Pret A Manger has been dedicated to making fresh food and organic coffee for its customers. The chain prides itself on making all its sandwiches (and other foods) fresh each day and donating whatever is left over after closing to local partners to distribute it to those in need. This guarantees delicious, quality sandwiches for its customers and helps the chain to build relationships with the communities it is a part of.

Pret A Manger also offers its customers easy grab-and-go access to its food, making it an easy choice for a quick, healthy lunch that you know is made up of high-quality ingredients. Pret A Manger is expanding to plant-based options for its vegan and vegetarian fans. Pret A Manger always offers reliable, fresh sandwiches that have earned a spot at the top of our list.


When compiling this list of sandwich chains, quality was the paramount consideration in deciding whether or not to feature a restaurant at all. Factors to determine the ranking included ingredients used, dedication to freshness, and creativity in composing the sandwiches provided by each eatery.

Additionally, we considered the prevalence of each eatery, recognizing that more is not always better, but that some restaurant chains are more widespread and thus more easily located than others. Therefore it made sense to feature them in this article so that readers would be given a relevant comparison for what options may be available in their area.

Furthermore, the individual story and philosophy behind each sandwich chain played a role in the choice of its inclusion. Sometimes the human touch behind a restaurant makes a significant difference toward the overall approach taken in its business practices, and that certainly plays a role in the customer experience.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.