Oct 18, 2019 | Report Announcements

Subway is the largest sub sandwich chain by far with the 2nd largest ad spend in all of QSR behind McDonald’s with core brand equity in the form of: customization (made-to-order) epitomized by the brand’s “Choice Mark” logo; interaction between sandwich artists & guests; sub sandwiches which include lots of veggies; and bread baked in-house. A complete overhaul of senior brand management is most welcome and the chain’s current turn-around plan seeks to: optimize assets; modernize existing units; innovate with new flavors & ingredients; and better connect digitally with customers and its target market. Fortunately, the system has finally managed to put development on a much-needed hold while the system continues to benefit from the culling and relocation of its weakest stores. Existing stores benefit from the roll-out of its Fresh Now platform (Flavor Stations, Fresh Pour Beverage Stations & updated menu boards) and more affordable facility upgrade options which suggest that its remodel initiative maybe complete in 5 years. A ramp-up in menu innovation could help Subway distinguish itself among sub-sandwich competitors better known for quality than innovation and 2018 comps improved to flat and are up +3% YTD 9/19 which suggests that its new brand positioning and store culling is beginning to gain traction. However, while Subway is certainly taking steps in the right direction, competition is perhaps the fiercest it has ever been for this iconic chain and it is notable that the brand still has more work to do to find the right value equation that works for consumers as well as its franchisees. Further, years of comp declines leaves a system AUV with little margin for safety and little capability for capex investments at a time when the new brand management could use some breathing room as they must necessarily tweak their turnaround initiative which is in its very early innings. In conclusion, while it is difficult to assess how long it will take the largest sub chain to reignite sustainable sales, Subway continues to move forward in a sensible manner such that its competitors would do well to take note.

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