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What is with the smell at Subway??

I forgot my lunch today. Needed something cheap, quick and healthy. The closest option to my office that fits these three things is Subway so I ran down there.

And remembered why I never want to go there.

The smell. THE SMELL!!

When I tell other people I won't eat there because of the smell they look at me like I'm nuts. I can't be the only one though...EVERY Subway I've ever been to - in whatever state - has smelled the same.

Why?? For a place that focuses on "fresh" ingredients, what is making that smell?? I don't even know how to describe it other than: ick!

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  1. I totally agree! I can smell a Subway from far away. Is it the yeast or something in the bread that they bake? Its pretty distinctive and strong.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DCLindsey

      In our neighborhood there is a Togo's/Baskin-Robbins combo. My wife refuses to go in there (except under dire need for a mint choclate chip fix) because the smell of the Togo's just ruins her taste for ice cream. The Togo's smell does remind me of Subway. Not sure it's the bread, but there IS a definite smell to all those sandwich places.

      1. re: Midlife

        Oh no I wonder if they'll be spin off threads about the smells of restaurants.lol
        Just tell me this does it smell like mediocrity,thats the only good answer i've heard for Subways smell.

    2. Ugh...I worked in a shop next to a Subway for a while and every day I walked out of there smelling like Subway. I can't even think about eating it now.

      1. It's that horrible bread. I call it "air bread". And their soda tastes like bubble gum.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Oh Robin

          It's the bread?!? Really?? Lordy be as the saying go....never smelled anything like that at a bakery thank goodness!

        2. I think it's something in the bread. But not a good bakery smell which I normally enjoy. I totally know what you mean.

          I can't eat at Subway ever since my honeymoon when we stopped for lunch there on the way to go reef fishing. Tiny town in the Florida Keys with few options. Nearly everyone on the boat got sea sick. I can't even think about their sandwiches without feeling queasy. No big loss.

          1. My boyfriend refuses to eat there for that same reason.

            I find it oddly comforting. [weird, i know]

            1. Yep; I'm with you! Some sort of funky not-in-a-good-way yeast smell.

              I'm developing a similar feeling about Cosi after standing in line at the drugstore behind a particularly disgusting Cosi-uniformed employee who was drenched with sweat and smelling faintly of the vinaigrette they put on my standard order, the tuna-cheddar sandwich ...

              1. Oh my gosh, that smell!!! Don't remind me! I hate it. I think it probably does have to do with the bread. But I've never smelled anything like it from any other cheap bread. The smell gets on you too. I was in there for like 2 hr once (don't ask) and I could smell Subway on my clothes and skin for the rest of the day. It's so amazing. I used to live across the street from a really cheapy bakery and the smell was heavenly. I don't know how Subway does it.
                And now I've lost my appetite.

                1 Reply
                1. re: don giovanni

                  I avoid the whole area ( consists of five stores) surrounding Subway as the smell is so awful!! Can't imagine anyone really enjoying eating with that odor. Worse than the fishy smell of supermarket seafood counters!! I really have a problem with the odor in the commercial bread isles of markets also for some time now. Think it may be preservatives they put in the dough. Pretty well limiting my shopping to farmer markets and Artisan breads!!

                2. ziggylu - it's marketing strategy, it's supposed to smell like a New York subway! Just kidding ~ hasn't bothered me before, but now it probably will!

                  I cannot stand the smell of 7-11's and other quickie marts- ugh, must they alway smell like expired hotdogs and vomit?!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ciaobella

                    That's funny. I was going to say it reminds me of the smell from field trip busses in high school.

                    1. re: ciaobella

                      The stench of 7-11s seems to be the same from store to store. To me it smells like a combination of milk gone bad and plastic, and it stays with you after you leave!

                    2. As someone who worked in a Subway during my youth I think I can tell you.

                      I'm pretty sure it isn't the bread...
                      ...it is all the chemical preservative liquid the meats come packed in.

                      The smell was overwhelming and VERY hard to get off after a shift.
                      The very thought of it makes my eye twicth.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: lebelage

                        Ew. Thanks for solving the mystery though. Why doesn't Quiznos have this same *aroma*?

                        1. re: lisaf

                          Quizno's uses higher quality meats. I've always found Sunway's meats to be rather slimy, while Quizno's seems to be at least super market deli quality.

                          1. re: mojoeater

                            I agree Quiznos is better but there prices are a rip.I get there coupons from there site and the only time I eat there is when I get the 2$ off a footlong coupon.Even then it's expensive.But they got a pepper bar and a few hot peppers makes you forget the price.

                            1. re: widehomehi

                              I travel a lot for work to places that people never go to for vacation. I am always grateful to see Quizno's. I throw in about 25 jalepenos in my sandwich and the heat makes me forget that I'm in a podunk town.

                          2. re: lisaf

                            can't say about Quiznos, but the Togos near my office has the VERY SAME SMELL!!! No, I dont eat there but I can smell it even walking by!

                          3. re: lebelage

                            yikes! why couldn't you just let me go on thinking it's the bread. i think i will never eat there again after hearing this! i feel light headed...

                            1. re: lebelage

                              I hate the smell too, and thought it was some kind of preservative for the vegetables they use. So it's the meat, huh? Or do they preserve the veggies, too???
                              YUM - NOT

                              1. re: lebelage

                                so much for "eat fresh"... ugh...thanks for sharing - i knew I didn't like subway, now I know why!

                                1. re: lebelage

                                  I always thought it was the bread and some chemical reaction with a preservative once the dough was baked. However, I have traveled all over the world--six continents--and Subways are everywhere. That smell is at every one, and each country I know has different rules and regulations on the types of preservatives that can go into food. So I wonder if that smell comes from somewhere else. It's strange...

                                  1. re: IEatMyVeggies

                                    I guess you have never gone to Japan because in the many Subway shops there you cannot sense any smell at all.

                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                      Or Taiwan, as outlined elsewhere on this thread.

                                      Mr Taster

                                2. Really weird. The Sub-Way that I have to pass coming and going from the office I work in when in Washington, DC, stinks and can't be avoided because the restaurant is on the ground floor of the building. I don't think its the bread--something worse.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    I think it's the meat they keep warm, like the 'grilled chicken.' Smells really bad.

                                  2. I think its Jared on a treadmill sweating off the pounds in the back of the restaurant.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Scott M

                                      LOL. My cousin used to work at a Subway when she was around 18 or 19 and I'd drive her crazy by walking in and yelling "I want to talk to Jared!". :)

                                      1. re: Scott M

                                        Wish there was a "like" button as they have on FB!

                                      2. I went there today and smelled bread cooking smelled good just wish they could tell be which meats had pork in them cause I don't eat pork the lady there didn't know and started asking the customers.So I left and went home to cook a Michaelangelo's Lasagna.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: widehomehi


                                          Generally as far as cold cuts go if it isn't roast beef, turkey, chicken, or tuna it has pork.. although some do carry "turkey ham".

                                        2. I must confess, that's what I had for "dinner" tonight after working from 6am-8:30pm...thank goodness the one by my house dose NOT have the smell but I have smelled that stank in others and lost my appetite...there are two that do not have the funk-stank-one in Studio City, CA where the SAG/AFTRA Credit Union used to be and one in Glendale CA in a Ralphs parking lot on North Verdugo...these two also have very nice people working in them which is almost shocking like you're gonna be on some hidden camera show since most Subways usually have some sullen, bitter, greasy people working in them.

                                          1. A friend of mine that worked at a Subway told me that if a customer came in just prior to closing time and requested all of the items on their sandwich they were treated to the "agregados" or what was left in the catch trays from all the other subs made earlier. That little nugget was enough for me!

                                            1. Well I'm glad to know I"m not the only one! My husband thinks I'm crazy...I made him read this to prove I'm not!

                                              I wouldn't be surprised it were the preservatives. That would also explain why both the turkey and the roast beef sandwiches taste identical to me!

                                              1. I don't think that its the bread. I think its the raw onions sitting around. I can't STAND the smell. And its not just Subway...its any sub shop. There is a Port of Subs (local chain) near my office...and sometimes its the only place for a quick bite. But I ALWAYS get it to go.

                                                There is a local Pho place that shares quarters with a sub shop here in Reno (sort of a mini-food court. I wouldn't even THINK of eating there because of the smell....even though I like Pho.

                                                And the worst is the Baskin Robbins near my house that shares quarters with a sub shop.

                                                1. There are a number of smells common to Subway. Unfortunately, the kids on my daughter's softball team are often condemned to eat Subway versus the fast food of the greasy variety when we are on the road, so I get to try a new Subway every weekend (lucky me). First, there is the overpowering yeasty odor from the bread that is constantly proofing in the place prior to baking. I think that is one of the strongest odors. The meats are allegedly not held in preservatives, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt here. They just seem to taste like supermarket sale-quality deli meats to me. I think the most notorious smells are in the dressings -- it's the familiar "hoagie" smell of onions, vinegar and garlic that seems to permeate the restaurant at times and all those who eat the stuff dressed to the max. Anyone who has ever lived near Philly will recognize it. If you eat a fully dressed hoagie, you need to take a shower afterward because the smell ends up in your hair, on your face and on your clothes. I think that is the funky "BO" aroma everyone is complaining about, but it could be a combination of the hoagie dressing, onions and the yeast causing the bread to rise.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                                    "The meats are allegedly not held in preservatives, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt here"

                                                    I can't give them the benefit of the doubt on that. I worked there. Each "log" of processed meat came in a thick layer of preservative slime. Now maybe they've changed since then (although I doubt it) but I will always remember the year that I lived and worked with that terrible smell.

                                                    1. re: lebelage

                                                      In my part of the world, at least, nothing has changed.
                                                      I used to work across the road from a Subway, and all their "fresh" ingredients were delivered in cardboard boxes. If it was so fresh, how do they slice those olives and jalapeƱos so uniformly?

                                                      1. re: cronker

                                                        The olives are cured and the jalapeƱos are pickled, so you shouldn't expect them to be fresh.

                                                  2. Oh my goodness-Have never eatern at a subway, and this thread has me convinces not to!! But- a small part of me wants to find a local subway and pop my head just to understand!

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: macca

                                                      Ive never eaten at one either; and in my experience, you don't need to pop in--the rancid smell is clearly present outside!

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        Exactly. The creature survives several meters outside the door. I'm seriously never eating there again, now that so many people have validated this.

                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          Oh- that is awful. In my area, I guess i can be grateful that there are not a lot of Subways near by. I think the closest one to me is abnout 12 miles away- but I do pass it on my way to work everyday, so I will try to make a point to go by!! This thread has really made me curious- a terrible compulsion , almost! Kind of like a car crash- awful, but hard to stop looking.

                                                      2. I too know what you mean. Figured that it was something to to with the bread.


                                                        1. I also think that it's the bread. If you read the ingredient lists for their breads on their websites, they're unlike any self-respecting bakery that you'll ever come across; I wouldn't stoop to call the end result "bread". Some of them even have high MSG ingredients like autolyzed yeast extract and hydrolyzed proteins in them. Who uses those in simple baked goods unless they contain meat? Abysmal.

                                                          1. I guess Fred DeLuca the Subway founder would call it the smell of money - it made him a billionaire!

                                                            1. It's the bread baking. Nothing more.

                                                              I mean "bread" and "baking," of course.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: John Manzo

                                                                Bread baking smells wonderful. There's something else going on at Subway.

                                                                1. re: John Manzo

                                                                  Bread baking? Since when does bread baking smell like a warm fermentation of a blend of 65% food waste, 10% used cooking oil, 15% floor mop rinse, and 10% water from the pot scubbing station?

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    Actually, Sam, Subway uses no cooking oil or pots, so you are down to 80%. Your 15% floor mop rinse implies that floors are really being mopped, so dissection of your math reveals that you are giving credit for roach-free hygiene at Subway. The remainging 65% -food waste - sounds like we need a will Rogers Quotation. "I never met a turd I didn't like?"

                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                      God, these replies are hilarious! especially since I thought I suffered alone. As someone else mentioned, I'm never eating there again after this thread. They somehow become popular in student unions, somehow wormed their way onto many campuses. One year of my life I ate many buffalo "chicken" wraps. There was nothing else, so it became a habit. I don't remember the smell there, but I used to cross the street to avoid the one near where I worked in Manhattan.
                                                                      What I wonder is, how can they stay in business with such a gross smell emanating from the place? Is not everyone aware of it? Perhaps subway has the market cornered on heavy smokers who have lost their sense of smell? but then there is still the mouth feel of cheap meat -
                                                                      There are actually subways overseas. this i could not believe. i was in amman recently, and I can understand the perception of McD's as fun for kids, but why in a city with the best schwarma and falafel sandwiches for $.30 a piece would anyone go near a subway? my conclusion was that they must be different, every time we drove past (multiple locations!). there's no way people would eat there otherwise. though I don't understand why people would eat there here, barring lack of any other food source.
                                                                      - it smells like vomit, let's go inside and eat whatever is giving off that smell!!!!

                                                                      1. re: fara

                                                                        I'll never forget the first time I went to a Subway, approximately 1989. I was traveling and the rest of the occupants of the vehicle I was in suggested Subway. I protested but was overruled. I went for a simple type of sub, like an "Italian". The saltiness and overprocessed taste of the meats astounded me. There wasn't much meat on the sub, either. And that smell... I am pretty sure it is the yeast in their "fresh baked bread". Yeah, the bread might have been baked today but how old is the dough and what is it made out of? This was in Buffalo, NY. Buffalo is a town with pizza joints every few blocks that have subs that blow these out of the water.
                                                                        Eight years later, my finace (now wife) who I had recently met dragged me to another Subway, this one in Gainesville, FL. That same smell... My strategy that day was to go as simple as possible, a turkey sub. Thin, chemically, salty, and not much turkey on that bread. It would be hard to get that down without mayo on it, much to Jared's chagrin.
                                                                        Fast forward to last year. There was some new spicy chicken or Buffalo Chicken sub that they were promoting in TV commercials and it actually looked enticing - and I love spicy food. I was driving down the road and there was a Subway up ahead. I actually pulled in on my own accord - I was alone, and suddenly found myself in a Subway, this one in Seminole, FL. This was a pretty new Subway and surprisingly that smell wasn't so strong. It was lunchtime and I was about the fifth person in line. I stood in the line anxiously awaiting my spicy chicken sub for about one minute when the voice inside me remarked, "Rob, do you realize you are actually standing in line at Subway???!!!". I immediately left. It is good to listen to that little voice inside you...

                                                                        1. re: Robert R

                                                                          > Yeah, the bread might have been baked today but how old is the dough and what is it made out of?

                                                                          Grab yourself a pot of tea, get comfortable, and load up their website. They have an ingredient list for their "bread", but a warning: there are far better novellas out there than that one and they don't require a degree in chemistry to understand.

                                                                          > This was a pretty new Subway and surprisingly that smell wasn't so strong.

                                                                          *grins* It's like a fine wine that seems only to improve with age!

                                                                      2. re: Veggo

                                                                        Fool, that was, "Ya caint shine a turd".

                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                          Por favor, keep watchin' out for me, Sam, especially when I next make my Oaxacan chicken with the velvety, chocalatey, chili-laden sauce replete with small rodents.

                                                                      3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                        Sam, I think the idea is that it's not the actual baking that smells bad. It's the raw, *cheapy*, yeasty dough sitting around. Really, if you ate there, you wouldn't believe how bad their bread is. But I think lebelage is right, that it has at least something to do with the cheap meat, as well. Grease, waste, sterilizers and dishwater are all present in the smell at, say, McDonalds, but the subway smell is unique.

                                                                        If you pay attention (and for your sanity, don't!) you can taste that smell in your sandwich. I know because I took one to go about a month ago, when some friends wanted to eat there, thinking it would be okay outside the store, but the sandwich carries the smell/flavor with it.

                                                                        I need a drink.

                                                                    2. I heard that at all Subways there is a time capsule with Jareds first burp from the first sub he ate on a commercial concealed in an airtight container within the capsule with a few drops of the meat preservative there was a reaction and the burp gas was released and has permeated the walls and perimeter of Subways all over the world for an area of 1 city block.Now come on people get real!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: widehomehi

                                                                        Has anyone tried Blimpie's? Are Blimpie's subs better?

                                                                          1. re: John Manzo

                                                                            I suppose it's all relative, but the Blimpie Best Italian sub beats anything Subway peddles. And there's no yeasty/butt smell at Blimpie.

                                                                            Then again, saying Blimpie is better than Subway is like saying colon cancer is better than lymphatic cancer.

                                                                      2. OMG, this might be one of the funniest threads ever...I was CRYING I was laughing so hard.

                                                                        No one understands why I cannot stand subway...I actually have almost shunned all sandwiches because of some bad experiences at subway. I also heard a TERRIBLE story about what a kid in my high school did to the tuna salad one day in the walk-in, and I have never felt the same about subway since.

                                                                        I do recall some broke/vegetarian-ish years where the (at the time) $1.99 veggie sub got me through some tough times.

                                                                        I think people who care little about food and taste/quality but just are hungry and are really trying to be healthy eat there because it's a no-brainer. But I can't see actively seeking it out!

                                                                        1. I thought it was just me too! Re-visiting a childhood memory of that great tourist-trap, the Shell Factory in Ft Myers Fl a few years ago was completely destroyed by THAT smell! Why oh why they put a Subway in there, I'll never understand. To me it smelled like they were heating frozen pizzas with the plastic wrap still on them. Icky, bread, plastic & cheese. I was so nauseous from THAT SMELL I had to wait outside!

                                                                          1. Thinking about this, I feel very sorry for the poor folks who work there. They could easily end up like the man in that dmb song Big Eyed Fish (if you know the song, you know what I'm talking about).

                                                                            1. Yeah, I've always wondered about that smell . . .

                                                                              1. I went into a cell phone store today and the whole room smelled exactly like Subway. I went back in a few hours later and the smell was still there, so I finally asked, and sure enough, one of the employees had a sandwich for lunch earlier. I can't believe it. One sandwich made the entire room smell for hours!

                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                1. re: don giovanni

                                                                                  Actually, that "baking bread" smell from Subway might actually be coming from am electronic scent box (I kid you not!) If you've ever seen an aromatherapy diffuser, these things operate in a similar manner, but on a larger scale.
                                                                                  I used to work at a restaurant and one day a marketing company came in to pitch these things. They are actually commonly used in many retail stores and the scent is customized for the store (aka Subway's baking bread). They can also used like aromatherapy. For example, some stores pipe in the subtle scent of peppermint to energize, other use lavender to make the shopper feel calm.
                                                                                  This company thought that since we were a restaurant, using one that had an enticing food smell and having it released to people walking by on the street would entice them to come in.

                                                                                  I really wish I was making this up but I'm serious. So, everyone is right on the mark when they complain about all the artificial ingredients and preservatives at Subway - even the smell is fake!

                                                                                  1. re: vinogirl212

                                                                                    So you're saying there's actually a company that sells a machine that will make a store smell like butt? And people pay for this? I'm in the wrong business.

                                                                                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                      While I don't know whether Subway uses them, the "smell machines" really do exist.

                                                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                        Love it. Some of your fellow Americans seem to have no nose. jd from UK.

                                                                                      2. re: vinogirl212

                                                                                        How else do you think that Cinnabon makes the entire mall smell like cinnamon?

                                                                                        Evil bastards.

                                                                                        1. re: Suzy Q

                                                                                          Disney has been doing this for years too. People walk down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and are enticed into the 'bakery' by the scent of fresh baked cookies. Only the cookies are baked in a food processing facility away from the park.

                                                                                    2. There's alot I'm embarrassed about here, but anyway, on the morning on the Fourth of July, my BF and I were shopping at Walmart and from the time we walked in we were enveloped in this quasi yummy smell of pizza, you know, the yeast, tomatoey sauce, cheese. Even though we had just finished brekkie at Mitzel's (The Chain That Doesn't Suck, Usually), after our shopping we followed our noses to the Subway outlet in the WM. They had big signs advertising their new pizzas. Having heard about them on CH, I told my BF we needed to take one for the team. After all, if it was disgusting after one bite, we didn't need to finish it. We never even got that far. After being ignored by the two employees, we gained their attention by asking if we could order a cheese pizza. I kid you not, she reached into a freezer and pulled out a cellophane entombed frozen pie. We cancelled and left.

                                                                                      1. I used to own a Subway. I can tell you it's the smell of the dough rising in the proofer....plus the evaporated olive oil and vinegar used on the sandwiches. Although it was a money-printing machine, glad those days were over.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: fdb

                                                                                          I worked in a bakery for three years, and good, fresh bread does not smell like that in the proofer. What the heck is in that Subway bread?

                                                                                          1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                            bread doughs at Subway came frozen....could that be the reason?

                                                                                            1. re: fdb

                                                                                              absolutely not! costco bread comes from the factory... it don't smell like that! not at all!
                                                                                              (course, costco bread is sourdough)

                                                                                        2. Ziggylu, I am so happy to read your post cause a lot of ppl never understand what I mean on "I do not want to go cause ill have the smell stuck to my clotsh and hair all day". The only times I actually go into a subway is on the weekends when I can change my cloths or stay outside for a long time! My hsuband loves it and dont get me wrong I like their sandwiches. But geeeeeez the smell that you get from walking into the establishment is something extremely annoying.

                                                                                          1. Hmm ...I guess it depends if I'm really hungry or not because sometimes I think it smells kinda yummy. However on hot humid days when NYC already stinks, walking by a Subway can be overwhelming.

                                                                                                1. re: widehomehi

                                                                                                  Hysterical thread! Guess it must be a money printing machine. I live in a town of <10,000 and we have 3 of the places! But we have a Quiznos opening very soon. Bye bye Subway!

                                                                                              1. SMELL is the strongest of the senses, strong in that it is the sense most likely to trigger memory, and to be remembered. This is SO true about subway--- I used to go there all the time during my Freshman year of college---there was one right next door, and being a college student, it was one of many depressing options. I usually stuck to a turkey sandwich, but on "special occasions" would treat myself to a meatball sub. I dont even want to think what was in any of that meat!

                                                                                                Recently I was sick and lost my appetite, which would lead me to pretty much satisfy any random craving i'd have, because at least it would indicate that I was hungry. All of a sudden, i WANTED subway, a turkey sandwich with that honey mustard. Upon entering, it was amazing, i was TRANSPORTED by that smell back to freshman year of college. It was actually a pleasant experience remembering all the fun, unhealthy times I had had. But I was shocked at how quickly it brought me back, it truly is a powerful aroma!

                                                                                                1. This post seems to be about a year too late but... We love Subway but the smell has been horrible. It used to smell good like fresh bread. I believe it all started when they began toasting the sandwhiches, or it could be one of their newer specialty breads. Anyways, they need to fix it. We do not eat in the stores anymore!

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: microtube

                                                                                                    I haven't even considered eating at a Subway since I moved to Boston (where Mom & Pop pizza/sub shops are on almost every corner of many residential neighborhoods).

                                                                                                    I don't remember them smelling bad. I do remember them tasting bad.

                                                                                                    It must be something they've done more recently. Hey, maybe they want it to really smell like....A SUBWAY (in Boston, Park Street Station...in New York, Times Square....eeewwww)..

                                                                                                  2. I have joined this dodgy website - no automatic return to this thread; couldn't even direct me to this thread when I specified "smell in Subway" - so I can tell you OMG I agree. Except that I have never been tempted to step into a Subway, because healthy it ain't - healthy food does not smell like decaying bodies. Also because it might as well have a big sign up in every outlet saying: "The animals who went into this food had a really, really terrible life, and we don't care."

                                                                                                    1. The Subways located in Lucy's Lavanderias smell more like detergent and bounce.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: roadfix

                                                                                                        I completely agree with this... I've been telling my girlfriend for years that Subways smell awful. Normally, my rule of thumb is to walk out of any restaurant that smells bad... but Subway is the only exception because the food tastes fine and it is healthier than other lunch options. I am so happy to find this forum because I finally know that my nose is NOT alone. I totally agree with the BOUNCE and DETERGENT smell... I am tempted to order my next Subway with a clothes pin on my nose.

                                                                                                      2. This week on the Daily Show: "You don't normally see it on camera, but it smells like a loaf of bread took a s**t." - Jon Stewart on the Subway restaurant inside the studio http://on.cc.com/n6i4Oj

                                                                                                        1. I've gone to dozens of Subways and visit the one near me one a month or so, and I'm always baffled when people mention the "Subway stench". I have no idea what they're talking about. I smell bread being baked, vegetables, the smell of recently-toasted subs, and occasionally cleaning products... is that what folks are smelling? I'd much rather smell those things than the stench of old hot oil inside McDonald's.

                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                            Have you ever been in a bakery where bread is actually freshly made and freshly baked -- rather than par-baked, frozen, and shipped to the store, where it is merely finished, as Subway does? The difference in the smells is huge.

                                                                                                            1. re: Rilke

                                                                                                              Haha, yes, surprisingly I've visited a bakery before. There's a huge difference between the smell of a scratch bakery and Subway, indeed -- by no means do I think that the "sandwich artists" are proofing loaves of bread in the back. I'm just saying the smell of 'finishing' bread and the other scents are totally innocuous to me.

                                                                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                Just checking! The smell of baking bread is a wonderful thing and should not be associated with the smell of Subway (at least for those to whom it's offensive) ;)

                                                                                                                1. re: Rilke

                                                                                                                  When I worked at Dominos, we'd get shipments of dough delivered in proofing bins that we had to put near the ovens to get back up to room temperature. The stuff didn't smell like dough fresh made in the kitchen. Nor did it smell like dough that had been proofed. It just smelled "unnatural." It's like you're looking at dough and expecting a dough smell but getting something else, something not right. Anyway, that's the closest to the Subway "stench" as I've gotten and I can die a happy person never encountering it again.

                                                                                                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                    Huh! That actually gives a really good clue as to what people are smelling. I'm guessing that the "SubSmell" is actually the proofing/half-cooked bread dough, since there's a ton of it at any Subway. I'd be really interested to know what's in the loaves of dough that keeps them ready to cook. Ammonia?

                                                                                                                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                      That's a similar process to what we did when I worked at Subway a decade and a half ago. The dough was frozen logs that came in cardboard boxes. When it was getting about time for more bread, we'd go back in to the walk-in, break a few logs off the frozen mass in the cardboard box, dust the rubber baking forms with cooking spray, and allow them to come to room temperature before baking them.

                                                                                                                      Don't get me wrong: I like Subway and still end up there once every month or so for a reasonably tasty and, more importantly, healthy lunch, but there is definitely a distinct "Subway Smell." I burned all of my work clothes the day I quit to eradicate the smell. No method or amount of cleaning could get that smell out -- destruction was the only option.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Rilke

                                                                                                                      indeed. i hasten to add that I've left dough in the fridge for half a week, and it hasn't smelled as bad as subway.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                        I worked in a biopharmaceutical facility that did research into Human Tissue Growth and Repair and the whole lab smelled like pizza. It was great!

                                                                                                                  1. re: Rilke

                                                                                                                    I don't exactly consider that investigative journalism. Is anyone shocked that the bread contains stabilizers and the deli meat contains nitrates? Subway lists all the ingredients they use in plain sight on their website.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Samalicious

                                                                                                                      I don't believe it claimed to be investigative journalism. I appreciate the straightforwardness of the tables she created. Plain and easy.

                                                                                                                1. I was in Taiwan for a month in October and was **shocked** to discover that That Dreaded Subway Smell DOES NOT EXIST at all the locations I saw in Taiwan!

                                                                                                                  I have no idea why.

                                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                                  18 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                    The same goes for Subway locations in Japan. Absolutely no bad smell, just the light smell of simple bread baking. They now make four kinds of bread, and while not great, it is good for the price and not at all objectionable.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                      Same with Subway locations in America, at least the ones I've always been to.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                        I am a home bread baker. I've made countless loaves... primarily the Bittman "no knead" style, though I've dabbled in baguettes, whole wheat sandwich loaves, and I make a killer brioche. So to paraphrase Lloyd Bensen,

                                                                                                                        "I bake fresh bread. I know fresh bread. Baking fresh bread is a hobby of mine. Subway does not smell like fresh baked bread!"

                                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                          I did not say that Subway is a scratch bakery that smells like a bakery.

                                                                                                                          They get frozen loaves in, proof them, and bake them, to the best of my knowledge.

                                                                                                                          What I'm saying is that, like the folks above, every Subway I've been in smells of bread that's recently been baked. None have had any notable bad smell, stench, etc. I'm not lying. Let's leave it at that, OK?

                                                                                                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                            I've smelled the Subway funk from New Jersey to Missouri, to Arizona and California, and now in Taiwan.

                                                                                                                            It's real. It exists. If you live in the one city in America whose restaurants don't exude the funk, or if you simply can't perceive it (or if you do perceive it and it doesn't offend you), consider yourself lucky.

                                                                                                                            I particularly like the smell described as "yeast dumpster".

                                                                                                                            But the question remains- how do the stores in Taiwan (and Japan) go funk-free? You'd think they'd be operating with the same equipment, the same ingredients, the same prefab dough. Or maybe not?






                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                              This totally made my day:

                                                                                                                              "I've always thought that it smelled like hot barf." LOL!


                                                                                                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                                That's funny.

                                                                                                                                I took my daughter to the local subway last week, late at night after the band concert at the high school. Smell was surprisingly absent. I haven't been in one for years because I couldn't take the smell.

                                                                                                                                Did they get some roided up air freshener in there?

                                                                                                                                1. re: chileheadmike

                                                                                                                                  Well, a lot of industrial "air fresheners" contain formaldehyde, which doesn't so much mask unpleasant odors as cause your olfactory sensors to shift into neutral so that you can't smell anything, bad or good. So it might be that the hot barf bouquet is still there and we're just too brain damaged to smell it.

                                                                                                                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                I think it's more to do with what others have mentioned: that what people are smelling is the scent of proofing/baking dough that has preservatives of some sort to aid in keeping them fresh during shipment.

                                                                                                                                My theory is that some stores are well vented and others aren't; lots of Subways are in malls, in small shopping areas, etc, and they have lousy ventilation. Thus people are getting a heavy dose of yeast funk combined with cleaning fluid smells from the floors and work area.

                                                                                                                                The store near me (and the one where I used to live) are free-standing stores, and when I go in, there's no vomit/stench/funk at all -- it's just a light bread baking smell. That's my theory, anyhow.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                  IMO, 7-11s in the US have an awful "trademark" scent as well. But the ones abroad, not so much. In fact, they are actually welcoming in places such as Japan.

                                                                                                                                  Subway though, those are foul throughout el mundo.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                                                                                    > Subway though, those are foul throughout el mundo.

                                                                                                                                    Not throughout el mundo.

                                                                                                                                    On rereading my post, I realize that I conveyed my initial thoughts imprecisely. (Though if you read carefully through the end of my post, I come to the conclusion I was actually attempting to make.)

                                                                                                                                    What I meant to write was that while I was Taiwan, I walked past several Subway restaurants in department store food courts and there was not a single speck of that foul, lingering odor that is so closely associated with the American restaurants.

                                                                                                                                    And someone else chimed in that the Japanese stores also are odor-free. (I can neither confirm nor deny this.) But I absolutely can confirm that the Taiwan Subway restaurants I experienced in Taipei had none of that foul stench that we associate so strongly with American Subway stores. The absence of it was stark, and distinctly telling.

                                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                      I have never noticed any foul smells at Subway in Japan, and I have been here longer than Subway has. Japanese people, particularly women, are intensely sensitive about smells, so perhaps this was solved before it became the problem it seems to be in the U.S.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                                        I emailed Subway's Taiwan customer service and received a reply from CoCo Chen (Field Consultant / Franchise Sales Manager, Subway Development Taiwan Branch).

                                                                                                                                        She says that Taiwan's bread is imported from Australia, not the US. (AUS bread purportedly does not contain the yoga mat chemical azodicarbonamide.)

                                                                                                                                        It will be interesting to see whether or not the Subway smell dissipates when the US manufacture switches to azodicarbonamide-free dough.

                                                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                        Throughout doesn't mean the whole world.

                                                                                                                                        I've noticed it abroad (definitely not in Japan), but unfortunately it still plagues nearly all (if not all) of the US branches.

                                                                                                                                        As for Taiwan, Subway would not rank as the number 1 source of a disagreeable stench, and it's not as if they are as common there as the US, so I didn't notice it (the thread topic) as much. One good point about that island though IMO- MOS Burger.

                                                                                                                                      3. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                                                                                        Oh my gosh, I have always noticed that at 7-11! No matter how quick I'm in and out I come out smelling strongly of coffee.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                                                                                          Many non-Japanese find the smell of simmering oden at 7-11's and other convenience stores during wintertime in Japan, very bracing and stinky. Not only is it a smell impossible to go unnoticed, but when you take some home to eat, the room you are in will take on the same smell for a bit....And I was personally taken aback, though not offended, first few times by smell of tea eggs at 7-11's in Taiwan and HK.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Silverjay

                                                                                                                                            They're not thousand year eggs (which are preserved.)

                                                                                                                                            The ones at 7-11 that you see bubbling away are fresh eggs boiled in a concoction of soy, star anise and various other aromatic ingredients.

                                                                                                                                            Tea egg:

                                                                                                                                            Thousand year egg:

                                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                            2. It smells because it's where food goes to die...

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                I'm pretty sure the "food" is already dead when the Sysco guy delivers it. Subway is just reanimating it Lovecraft style, albeit with more toppings and stank.

                                                                                                                              2. It's funny but I never gave it much thought until this thread, but I can say I can relate. I really stopped going to Subway many years ago when someone pointed out to me how does the countries largest chain of sandwich/subs, not have one slicer in any of their stores. That fact really turned me off to the entire concept of sandwiches from places like that.

                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                  I've never seen a meat grinder, potato slicer, or knife for cutting tomatoes at any of the largest hamburger chains, either, though. Fast food is all about efficiency and consistency, so using pre-sliced meat & veg, pre-made salad, and par-baked bread is the order of business pretty much anywhere.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                                    Well to be perfectly honest if you read my posts on these issues I'm not a big fan of fast food burger chains either, so I'm pretty consistent on the topic. As the matter of fact I liked Subway as an alternative to "fast-food" burger places, until as I said above the pre-sliced meat of origins unknown turned me off a bit.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                      I used to feel that way too, until a friend who worked as a deli slicer told me how often they cleaned the slicer.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                                        Oh I'm not trying to be critical, to each their own, if Subway floats your boat more power to you. I would prefer more people "ate fresh" over Mc D's or other far less healthier alternatives.

                                                                                                                                        To each their own, just for me the "mystery meat" is more a deal breaker than a dirty slicer.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                                          ha. I've watched people sneeze on the slicer and then keep going.

                                                                                                                                  2. i have worked in many restaurants for over 30 years and i have always been the go to for identifying smells, the "nose that knows" and subways do smell, in fact they all smell the same, even when entering a giant big box store i can smell the stench from subway, yes it does smell like old hot vomit, but the kicker is....
                                                                                                                                    OPEN UP A NUMBER TEN CAN OF MUSHROOMS AND THERE'S YOUR SMELL, that's what all subways smell like to me, it's the only thing i can pair it with

                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: besookie3

                                                                                                                                      Not true, actually. Most Subways smell like their bread, which is proofed and baked on-site. To some people, the smell of bread proofing and cooking, combined with the fresh veggies/meat, is pretty horrible. To others, it smells like bread.

                                                                                                                                      I suspect that some Subways aren't as well vented as others and that makes the yeast/bread smell stronger.

                                                                                                                                      Since Subway doesn't use mushrooms on their subs, that's not what causes the smell.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                                        THAT is NOT a yeast/bread smell. That is a gross chemical/unknown stuff smell. A yeast/bread smell is pleasant, delicious, and welcoming. A Subway stinks.

                                                                                                                                        It strikes me that if Subway used good-quality, REAL, unadulterated food, they could rule the world.

                                                                                                                                        Instead, people with functioning noses and taste buds and brains go out of their way not to walk past one.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                                          Yup. definitely not "costcobrand yeast".
                                                                                                                                          I know someone who vomits if he ingests fresh veggies (yes, this is documented online, in video form). I am not him, I like veggie-smells.

                                                                                                                                      2. That smell is beyond vile.

                                                                                                                                        But to some it smells wonderful.

                                                                                                                                        1. I emailed Kenji from Serious Eats (and formerly from America's Test Kitchen) about this. His best guess is that it's a proprietary fragrance that is added to the dough shipped to American restaurants as a kind of "scent trademark".

                                                                                                                                          Based upon my recent experience in Taiwan, it makes sense that this could possibly be the case- if it had to do strictly with the fermentation of the yeast, one would think the odor would exist uniformly.

                                                                                                                                          Odor-free Subways in Taiwan:

                                                                                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                            It may just be me and few others but that smell is pretty darn egregious.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                              The high pitched tone of Pavlov's bell might have sounded unpleasant to the dog the first time it heard the ringing. But given a few scooby snacks it was probably a sweet sound indeed.

                                                                                                                                          2. I think it's just the lingering odors of meat, and veggies.

                                                                                                                                            1. Worst smell ever and even if you walk by you can smell it in your hair a hour later. The Home Depot near me put it in the front and I can barley shop there. Worst smell ever.

                                                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: daislander

                                                                                                                                                Wait! A Subway inside a Home Depot? Where do you live?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                                                                                                                  I haven't seen that before. usually, they got the bacon-wrapped hot dog cart pout front.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                    We have Subway inside Target and Walmart, so why not Home Depot.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                      Why not indeed! I don't think there are any here in SoCal though. Let's see..... Lumber-check; PVC pipe- check; drill bits- check; cold cut combo- check.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                                                                                                                        I'm in NY and I am seeing all these kinds of 'restaurants' opening in the lobby of all the big stores here. Starbucks included. A new trend in penetration apparently. Guess they noticed how well the independent hot dog carts in the parking lot were doing and pounced on it!

                                                                                                                                                        Now that I'm thinking about it, these chains are also opening in all the hospital lobbies around here too.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                          Great! Now you can have a bacon cheeseburger on your way in for bypass surgery. ;o))

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                                                                                                                            Makes sense, more business for the hospital!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                                                                                    This makes the most sense to me, if I had to describe the smell it would be equal parts wet feet and Swiss cheese.

                                                                                                                                                  2. it's the meat they use.
                                                                                                                                                    if you are ever around when they first cut open the package of any of the meats, you will smell the strongest stench.

                                                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                      oh, geez, welcome to the thread WG.

                                                                                                                                                      i'm about to throw up.

                                                                                                                                                      this is turning out to be a very bad day indeed.

                                                                                                                                                      and i just can't believe i ate those goods for years upon years thinking it was healthy: turkey, no cheese, no mayo, and a drink. 600 kcal's all in, one for lunch, one for dinner.

                                                                                                                                                      and you're losing calories all along.

                                                                                                                                                      was the smell still there in the late 80s to very very very very early 90s ?????????

                                                                                                                                                      i just can't really remember truth to tell.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                        WSG -- that's a good guess, but That Subway Smell seems to be, from reading so many posts here, from their baking bread in the store. However, in Japan they bake the bread in the store, and there is absolutely NO smell. Yes, it is likely that their meats do have an unpleasant smell, but the overwhelming opinion The Famous Subway Stench IS the bread, but apparently that must only be true in the U.S.
                                                                                                                                                        Normally I totally agree with you, but not this time.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                                                          To me, it's amazing it permeates the wall in the mall to the bank next door, that's sort of scary. I mean, the stench is overwhelming.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                                                            I experienced the same thing in Taiwan. Walked past a subway stall at a food court in a fancy Xinyi district shopping mall, and the stall was sparkling clean with not a hint of the yeast dumpster.

                                                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                              hmmm, interesting. why is that ??????

                                                                                                                                                              is it because of better quality goods in Taiwan, Japan, etc ??????????????

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                and did you try a sandwich there ??????

                                                                                                                                                                taste any different than the ones in the US ??????????????????

                                                                                                                                                          2. I have no problem with the smell of yeast or baking bread, and that's all Subway has ever smelled like to me.

                                                                                                                                                            Sometimes it smells heavily like cleaning products, because they've just mopped. I'm OK with that.

                                                                                                                                                            I've noticed that the Subways I go to have a heavy glass cover that they lower over the meat and veggies in between customers. Maybe that's why it doesn't smell like meat?

                                                                                                                                                            Frankly, the deli counter at my local deli has more of a 'stench' than any Subway I know of.