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Jul 28, 2007 03:39 PM

How Does Subway Stay in Business?

I went to Subway today for a quick bite expecting nothing specatacular. So I order a 6 inch Roasted Turkey Sub with Swiss chesse. The guy working there then proceeds to place just two round slices of turkey (at about 4 inches in diameter) and two half slices of Swiss (cut into triangles) onto a roll and asks me "anything else?" What the?
How do they stay in business?

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  1. That's exactly how they stay in business ~ quanitity control! I presume when people drop by Subway's it's for a quick, "healthy" bite. [i]Personally[/i] don't like their dry bread even with the variations of loaves ya get to choose from. On rare occasions that I've eaten there (either with a coupon or some sort of sub deal) their toppings are pretty fresh and that's about it. Once I tried their steak sub w/c was better than I thought it would be. I'm not sure if all franchises serve the same amount of ingredients but most likely they do.
    I was wondering the same thing about a Quizno's that opened up here last year. I ordered their combo with a soup and when I got home it was only filled up 60% to the top. I checked the bag to see if any soup had spilled over but the plastic bag was bone dry.
    Now a days if I buy a submarine it's the ones I order in from restaurants and not some skimpy sub coming out of a "toaster oven",

    3 Replies
    1. re: Yummy Stuff

      I remember reading an article about the Quizno's in my area having trouble staying in business- much more so than Subway. I worked at one place that was adjacent to a subway and a grocery store that served superior sandwiches, but it always took much longer to get through the line at the grocery store so I think a lot of people ended up opting for Subway instead just to save time.

      1. re: queencru

        The few times I ate at Quiznos I thought the prices were expensive compared to Subway (back in the early 2000s).

        1. re: melpy

          quiznos is more expensive, significantly, and the portions seem smaller to me, or maybe im imagining insult added to injury.

    2. Yummy hit it. I noticed them weighing every ingredient of my sandwich except the bread. Final result was almost like the ingredients had been printed onto the bread, which was not very good. The ingredients were fine, and no doubt exactly the correct weight. I think they have an "extra ingredient" option now, probably a way of raising the real price of a decent sandwich while offering the base sandwich at a ridiculously low cost. After all, bread is cheap - deli meats are not.

      I wondered whether I should post this, since with current technology, they probably can print flavored edible inks onto the bread and cut the meat, lettuce, tomato altogether - and now I've given them the idea if they didn't already have it.

      The really strange thing isn't how they stay in business - it's how they're expanding rapidly. Are they busy at lunch time? They do advertise a lot on TV - this seems to draw people to lousy fast food better than anything.

      7 Replies
      1. re: salutlemonde

        Part of the reason why Subway expands like crazy because they promote franchising like nobody's business - literally. Look on their napkins. If you ever look into franchising expos or mags, Subway is everywhere. Also I think there is an ethnic component to it, at least in LA. It seems that most Subways are owned and operated by South Asians. The familiarity with this particular franchise and franchising in general amongst this ethnic community seems to have become a part of their business culture.

        1. re: bulavinaka

          subway is the cheapest franchise to open and operate; often the reason it is the choice of large immigrant families of every nationality, trying to get into business for themselves. it's marketed to them as a safer bet than trying to establish their own ethnic restaurants. subway sucks the life out of a neighborhood like nobody's business.

          1. re: soupkitten

            Yup - again, it's all about being pragmatic. Many immigrants don't worry about "ooh - I'm going to open my own restaurant and make the best fill-in-the-blanks. They want something that is secure, safe, and something that they will hopefully be able to eventually use as collateral to grab another franchise. It's done alot in LA, as I am sure it is done alot elsewhere...

            1. re: soupkitten

              subway is the cheapest franchise to open and operate

              so true my boyfriend is always talking about doing this. Our town has currently 3 subways and 1 quiznos. We used to have 4 subways. No more than a few miles between each one.

          2. re: salutlemonde

            The few times I eat at Subway, I order to vegetarian---just "cheese," lettuce, tomatoe, black olives, SP and vinegar. Its frustrating, for as much as they charge for this, they will only place 5 olives on the sandwich!

            1. re: Moonpie

              This is why I can't stand going there any more. Their veggie sandwiches aren't much cheaper than ones with meat, yet on a six-inch you get three pickle slices and 4 olives pieces?

              1. re: mollyomormon

                Hm, I've often asked workers at various Subways to add more olives/pickles/jalapenos and they'll do it w/o charging extra.

          3. Not defending Subway here, but why is it many Americans think that every sandwich should be overstuffed?

            Subway has always had portion control on meats and cheese while using the wide variety of veggie toppings to market health and individuality. I'd think the reasoned argument with Subway would be more about the relative tastelessness of their meats and cheeses than the amounts used.

            In Italy much of what you'll encounter in panini shops is simply one or two slices of a meat and maybe some cheese and/or vegetable. That's it. It's rare there are more than three ingredients on a panini. It's much the same throughout continental Europe. Unless you go to Subway, of course.

            A point could be made that if you truly have quality ingredients, you would logically let them shine in harmony instead of overkill on any one ingredient or burying them with other stuff. As Subway - and for that matter, virtually every other sandwich chain in existence - uses inferior ingredients, they have to sell the other stuff. So load up on the cukes and banana peppers - that's the whole point of eating there!

            16 Replies
            1. re: Panini Guy

              For me, it's more a matter of the ratio between bread and fillings. A panino works with less fillings because the bread is thinner, almost just a crust.

              1. re: salutlemonde

                Exactly how I feel. The ratio is what matters. I used to buy pre-made sandwiches at a supermarket deli for lunch, Throw away half the bread, and make a fat half-sandwich.

              2. re: Panini Guy

                Which is exactly why I prefer Potbelly sandwiches: smaller sub, better ingredients, lower pricetag. And none of that wierd Subway odor either.

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  Exactly why I prefer Potbelly as well! I seriously hate Subway!!

                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                    lol--"subway odor"! There's one next to my bank, and the odor hits mme every time I walk by. gross! how can people eat there?

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      There's one next door to my bank and when you walk in the bank, the odor hits you like a bomb. A stink bomb. I feel sorry for the people that work there.

                    2. re: monkeyrotica

                      I HATE the Subway odor...everything smells like yellow onions (which wouldn't be my personal choice for a sandwich) even if you don't order them!

                      1. re: melpy

                        I asked the same question about Starbucks...but I guess it's all in the marketing. I can't believe that Subway survies in Chicago, Boston or NY..all places with good Deli's. In Seattle we have a few Vietnamese bakery/restaurants that serve what is called "Banh Mi." It's a kind of Vietnames sub sandwich with a really good baguette and fresh ingredients..and they are inexpensive...

                        1. re: cshean

                          "I can't believe that Subway survies in Chicago, Boston or NY.."

                          I am just as incredulous when I see Domino's and PIzza Hut somehow staying in business in NYC.

                          As for Subway,they seem to be very popular with lunchtime crowds who can't turn down the $5 footlongs. Bland bread, meager toppings, and flimsy meat can be consumed for the right price I suppose.

                          1. re: globocity

                            The bread might be bland and the meat flimsy, but the toppings in no way can be described as meager.

                    3. re: Panini Guy

                      I don't mind not having a lot of meat or cheese on a sandwich, but my local subway skimps on the veggies quite a bit, too. that bread is just too big and too dry without a lot of veggies. i was bummed when they switched to the big bread a few years ago; the old small bread was a better match for the amount of stuff they put on a sandwich.

                      my theory is that subway stays in business by being unoffensive; its not that anyone particularly likes it, but very few people hate it, making it a sort of "default" when shopping around for lunch. the one near my office has a line out the door every day.

                      1. re: Panini Guy

                        It's like the Woody Allen quote "The food here is aweful...and such small portions!"

                        1. re: Panini Guy

                          In Europe your 'sandwiches' tend to have very little meat. But oh, what tasty and flavorful smoked meats you get, not the bland "pressed loaf" of Subway

                          In Germany before a plane ride I pointed to the "sandwichen" at a bakery. Smallish crusty hard bread, 1 thin slice of highly smoked salami, butter, 1 thin lettuce, and a thin slice of hardboiled egg. Delicious! I think it only cost 1 EUR as well.

                          1. re: JugglerDave

                            A real Italian porchetta sandwich doesn't have that much meat, but the meat that is there is amazing. And the bread as well. But we're talking about real meats cured and prepared by real people, not injection-molded flavorless food "product."

                            I don't think anyone would mind Subway skimping on the meats if the meats actually tasted like... well.... ANYTHING. If you can't have quality, at least maybe some quantity?

                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                              monkeyerotica and JugglerDave hit it on the head. Most Americans equate big flavor with more "stuff" while other cultures understand big flavors doesn't necessarily mean big ole lumps o' ingredients. Which kind of hits at the root of all this American gluttony/big servings.

                            2. re: JugglerDave

                              German bakery sandwiches are soooo goood!

                          2. It sounds like you got shorted. They don't exactly load their sandwiches, but they have a standard amount of lunchmeat they are to use and two pieces is not it. As far as the others who complain of too few toppings, all you have to do is ask for more and they ar accomodating almost always. I personally more often have issues with things being overdressed so I appreciate when they don't immediately assume I want the typical American overstuffed sandwich.

                            1. I wonder how all the chain sandwich places stay in business(subway, quiznos, potbellys, etc). They are all pretty bad. If I want a sandwich I go to a local deli.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: swsidejim

                                Being a local deli is no guarantee of quality, any more than being a chain is a guarantee of consistency. In some places, a chain is the only options, so we all need our own checklist of suckitude to determine which chain sucks the least and what you're willing to put up with.

                                If I REALLY want a sandwich, I make it myself. And if I do a particularly good job, I leave myself a generous tip.

                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                  I guess living in the Chicago area I am lucky to have dozens of good local mom & pop delis to choose from that are better than anything I had at a chain shop before I gave up on them.

                                  Typically if I want a good deli sandwich while sitting home watching a game on t.v., I plan ahead, and go to an Italian market, and have them slice up the meats and cheeses for me to make my own sandwich at home

                                  1. re: swsidejim

                                    Actually that is true SWSideJim - I have a nearby NY Deli (in Phoenix!) that rocks any sub that Subway could kick out. Much cheaper, tastier. I do agree tho that if you can't find a local deli when on the road, Subway is there and I treat it as an "What oh what would I want in my sandwich" ordeal. I cannot finish a 6" so I need to consider leftovers.

                                  2. re: monkeyrotica

                                    I second that. I used to work at Von's in my teen years. The deli next door used to come in and stock up on the "Slim Price" generic white bread. Eeee-gaaads!