Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chains >
Apr 26, 2013 11:04 AM

Malodorously Yours

Stemming from my childhood days, the aspect of convenience store and fast food (or even places like TGI Friday's and Applebee's) chains which has been hardest to ignore is undoubtedly the smells I associate with them. Particularly at branches in the US. I'm not talking about the customers (anyway that might be for another topic), rather I'm focusing on the smells emanating from the kitchens/ovens/puzzling cleaning methods that the management/staff/franchisee have control over.

I've traveled quite a bit around the US and the world, though the malodorous qualities of Subway sandwich shops, McDonald's, 7-11s, and Burger Kings, to name just a few, seem exponentially more palpable in the US. In Tokyo, walking into a Lawson, Family Mart or 7-11 is a joy (again, the standards and array of items on offer in Japanese convenience stores is not the crux of this post), Burger Kings in Shenzhen, China (never mind that they look so much less like scenes out of Death Wish movies) and Dunkin' Donuts in Jakarta, Indonesia never extend to their patrons the foul stench of...foul stenches. Heck, the A&W in Banda Aceh, Indonesia was luckily nothing like the A&W which used to be in the Springfield Mall in Virginia. Why is it that when you walk by a Subway, you KNOW it's a Subway? For boulangeries and patisseries, this works in their favor. For a Subway, it's reason enough for me to find another lunch spot.

Shucks, and I've lived in some rather insalubrious places too. But why is it that certain chains in the US don't give much of a hoot about ventilation or the potential effect (albeit small?) the odors have on business?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Every few months, someone posts here about the supposed "Subway stench".

    Every Subway I've ever been to has smelled like bread. Sometimes like bread and Windex, if the place was just cleaned.

    Maybe I'm lucky, but having been to a bunch of Subways, never has one smelled like anything remotely foul enough to post about on a food message board.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Boston_Otter

      7-11 offers a far worse smell. If you can't tell that they too are culprits, you must be a franchisee, or maybe you just don't care. I'd like to be able to ignore the smells, but it's not like I have a constant need to buy things from these chains either.

      1. re: BuildingMyBento

        I'm not a 7-11 or Subway franchisee, no. I guess I just don't mind the smell of bread.

        1. re: BuildingMyBento

          If the smell offends, and you don't "have a constant need to buy things from these chains" then you can and should avoid them.

          1. re: carolinadawg

            That's not my argument. If it was, I have no idea how I've lived in NYC (or Jakarta, or Hong Kong) for part of my life.

            At the same time, I'm not "living" in these stores. It's such a small part of a consumer's life, buying things at a 7-11 or Subway, yet it's made that much more tolerable elsewhere.

        2. re: Boston_Otter

          I don't like the smell of subway bread. Makes me gag. Sometimes the smell is so strong even just walking by.

          7-11 just smells like burnt coffee. Doesn't bother me. I get my (fresh) coffee and get out

          1. re: cheesecake17

            The 7-11s I've been to smell like coffee. Every Starbucks I've been to smells like burnt coffee.

            Subway smells like wide-open ass.

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              I've been to several locations of Subway in Japan and none of them have any kind of bad smell, nothing at all. Japanese people (particularly young women) are IMO overly sensitive to smells of any kind, so I think some sort of countermeasures have been taken with all locations in the chain. The next time I am in the US I will have to check out a Subway shop to find out what this horrible smell is like.

          2. re: Boston_Otter

            Maybe "Subway stench" is like cilantro: some folks love it, some folks think it tastes like soap.

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              I think it's more apt to say that different stores smell differently.

              I've never been to a store that smelled bad in any way; they smell like bread, if anything. I'm not being oblique or argumentative, just saying that if your stores smell like an anus, that's waaaaay different than the ones I've been to.

          3. I have not heard of this but I have never been in a Subway either. I now have a strange desire to stop in one.

            The closest I have ever been to a 7-11 is the convenience market at gas stations. Is that the same thing? The one around here has a DD in it and that is all I smell when I walk in.

            5 Replies
            1. re: foodieX2

              One-third of the world would love to have this problem.

              1. re: foodieX2

                Not sure what a DD is, but most gas station/convenience stores have those *rolling* hot dog broilers, which put out a Dog-awful stench. Can't imagine who would buy one of these. To the OP: I honestly don't know what you are talking about. Yes, bread smell at Subway, deep-fry oil at McD. But 7-11? Applebys? Huh?!

                1. re: mwhitmore

                  DD=Dunkin Donuts. All I smell in the gas station stores is their coffee.

                  1. re: mwhitmore

                    As I responded later on, it's such a trivial amount of time actually spent in these places to make a few purchases, but there must be a reason why a boulangerie reels me in to buy something more often than a 7-11 or Applebee's...

                    Speaking of Applebee's/TGI Friday's (or TGI Thursday's in Dubai), there's often a miasma of greasy/deep-fried odors which on one hand clearly explains the menu to potential patrons, but also is off-putting for as soon as you sit down the scent becomes something of a parasite on your clothing.

                    There's no dearth of choices for eats in my usual locations (NYC or East Asia), but getting me as a customer might be as simple as having proper ventilation or even one of those air fresheners that sprays a mist at specific intervals. The air freshener is obviously more like a placebo, but it does help.


                2. I can't say I've ever noticed this "issue". I've been in 7-11's and fast food places both in the US and internationally and didn't smell any difference.