For the first time in its 52 years of operation, Subway announced that it contracted in 2016, shuttering 359 US locations which as Bloomberg described was the “biggest retrenchment in the history of the restaurant chain” whose total store count dropped 1.3% from 27,103 in 2015 to 26,744 even as it remained the most ubiquitous fast-food eatery in the US, although McDonalds still tops if by sales.
“Sales for 2016 reflect our focus on international growth,” the Connecticut-based company said in a statement. “We are undertaking an exciting transformation that includes introducing new and improved products, creating an even greater customer experience, refining operations, and positioning Subway franchisees for continued success.”
Confirming that the domestic sales slowdown has continued into 2017, even as the Sub-par chain has been competing with dozens of newer, more exciting fast food eateries, U.S. same-store sales continued to slide during March, dropping 0.6% in the fourth straight month of decreases, according to MillerPulse data cited by Bloomberg.
The good news is that despite the domestic contraction, Subway is still growing internationally with sales outside the U.S. rising 3.7% to $5.8 billion as it continued to open locations.
The private company has been pressured not only by a sharp recent decline in US restaurant traffic and sales – an industry which as we reported recently suffered its worst collapse since 2009 – but by the industry’s heavy reliance on discounts and promotions. Subway also has lost some of its luster as a healthier-food option, Bloomberg notes as it has been working to restore its status by eliminating antibiotics from its chicken and switching to cage-free eggs.
In another bid to revive growth, Subway is adding delivery services — a strategy that’s also been embraced by McDonald’s. And it even unveiled a new, more contemporary logo. But so far, the changes haven’t helped much: Sales fell 1.7 percent last year to about $11.3 billion.
As Bloomberg adds, the sandwich chain, which infamously lost its iconic spokesman Jared Fogle in 2015 under humiliating circumstances, has also been overhauling its management team. On Wednesday, the company said it’s bringing on former McDonald’s executive Karlin Linhardt to lead marketing for the more than 30,000 Subway stores in the U.S. and Canada.
Last year, Subway hired Katie Coleman to handle global public relations. She was tasked in part with helping the chain recover from a scandal involving former spokesman Jared Fogle. He pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and was sentenced to prison in 2015.
Subway, owned by Doctor’s Associates Inc., was founded about 52 years ago by Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck. DeLuca died in 2015, leaving the company in the hands of his younger sister, Suzanne Greco, who became chief executive officer. The chain’s restaurants are entirely owned by franchisees.
Meanwhile, as US eaters seemingly grow tired with Subway’s choices, UBS was out with the following report…