- Subway franchisees say that the chain only delivers fresh vegetables and other produce once a week at most locations.
- The lack of fresh produce seems to go against the company’s slogan of “eat fresh.”
- The result, according to a franchisee who has protested the policy, is lettuce that tastes like “shredded paper.”
- Subway closed more than 900 locations in 2017 and franchisees say more closures are likely to come in 2018.
Subway franchisees say that the chain is enforcing a policy that seems to violate its “eat fresh” slogan.
Two franchisees, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, told Business Insider that most locations of the chain only receive produce deliveries once a week. Some locations, with greater sales figures, are allowed to have groceries delivered twice a week.
“By the end of the week … the lettuce is just a massive problem,” one franchisee said. After just a few days, it begins to taste like “shredded paper,” she said.
The franchisee said she has reached out to Subway about the issue, but they refuse to make changes.
Previously, the franchisee – who owns two locations and has been a franchisee for decades – ordered local produce. The company, she said, forced her to stop doing so.
“I have voiced my concerns for years regarding the need for daily produce deliveries into our stores … I want to pay more for a better tasting lettuce and I have been shut down,” she said. “Today’s consumer is extremely sensitive to preservatives and desire cleaner labels.”
Another franchisee said that, while most locations only get one shipment of produce a week, he doesn’t believe it to be a major issue for the chain.
In a statement to Business Insider, Subway said it works with more than 100 family farms and suppliers in the US to help make sure its restaurants have fresh produce. But the company would not say whether or not produce shipments were only delivered once to twice a week.
“Our stringent food quality standards ensure the freshest products from farm to sandwich. Franchisees decide when to schedule their orders to make sure they always have fresh produce in restaurant,” Dennis Clabby, executive vice president of Subway’s independent purchasing cooperative, said in a statement to Business Insider.
Subway built its reputation as a “fresh,” healthier alternative to chains such as McDonald’s, using the slogan “eat fresh.” The chain became the largest in the US – reaching 27,103 locations in the US at its peak in 2015 – by marketing itself as a nutritious, but reasonably priced, option in a sea of fast food.
Factors such as spokesman Jared Fogle being charged with having sex with minors and possessing child pornography in 2015 helped tarnish Subway’s image.
However, decisions such as only delivering produce once or twice a week highlight how the chain has fallen behind on trends. Sweetgreen – a fast-growing salad chain – has locally and regionally-sourced fruits and vegetables delivered to locations every day., by comparison.
“Today, people are ever more educated on nutrition, food sourcing, and ethical holistic business models,” Sara Bamossy, the chief strategy officer at ad agency Pitch, told Business Insider. “To create (or to rekindle) loyalty and sales, it is not enough to label something as ‘natural’ and it’s not enough to be affordably priced.”
The sandwich chain’s US store count dropped by 909 locations in 2017, almost three times as many as the year before. Subway currently has 25,835 shops open and operating in the US, according to a representative, compared to 26,744 at the end of 2016.
Franchisees say Subway is bracing itself for more closures in 2018.
A Subway spokesman wouldn’t comment on the number of store closures expected in 2018. But the company did say in a statement to Business Insider that it is “realigning markets to ensure the right Subway restaurants are in the right locations,” remodeling restaurants, introducing new products, and refining operations.
But its efforts may not be enough.
“Subway needs to get back in touch with their roots – freshly baked bread and fresh ingredients assembled with care,” Travis York, CEO of creative agency GYK Antler, said. “These offerings are not only genuine, but also different from the competition. They can’t just toss a bunch of stuff on random bread products and expect it to impress an increasingly discerning public.”
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