In an effort to bolster laggard sales, brighten up its image and provide relief to consumers whose devices need a boost, Subway yesterday took the wraps off a “Fresh Forward” redesign that it hopes will eventually rejuvenate its more than 40,000 outlets dotting the globe.
“The sandwich chain says the redesign — which includes a brighter atmosphere, displays of vegetables behind the counter and ordering tablets — is the first major revamp since the early 2000s. The changes will take place as stores around the country are remodeled and new ones are built,” writes the AP’s Candice Choi in USA Today.
“The new design includes self-order kiosks that work with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and a more comfortable seating area with WiFi and USB charging ports,” reports Olivia Chang for CNN Money. “The stores will feature a renewed emphasis on fresh produce, too, as whole tomatoes, onions and peppers will be put on display and cut fresh at the store by the chain's ‘sandwich artists.’ Subway is also changing up the menu with new sauces and additions like pico de gallo, house-made pickles and ‘made-without-gluten’ bread,” Change continues.
“Subway hopes that a remodel could provide the system with a shot in the arm, similar to what remodeling projects have done at other chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Popeyes,” which “have used remodeling programs to generate sales growth,” writes Jonathan Maze for Nation’s Restaurant News.
“Unit volumes at Subway have fallen by nearly 11% since 2013, according to NRN data. The chain’s domestic system sales have dropped, too, from $11.9 billion in 2014 to $11.3 billion last year. The company’s domestic unit count, which was once growing at an unstoppable rate, has fallen over that time, by 359 locations, to 26,744 units at the end of last year,” Maze reports.
“The hope is that Subway's new spaces will be more inviting to consumers and more technologically savvy,” writes CNBC’s Sarah Whitten.
“It's not cluttered,” Trevor Haynes, Milford, Conn.-based Subway's VP of operations, tells her. “And I think that's what people are looking for, they are looking for simplicity.”
And a place to “dwell” — which may have once meant share a conversation with colleagues or family members but now means taking advantage of the free WiFi while your $1,000-plus “phone” is recharging.
“The new design has already been rolled out in 12 different locations across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Currently, 85 of its existing locations in the U.S. are being remodeled," reports Mary Hanbury for Business Insider.
“The goal is to eventually have every restaurant redesigned to match the new look,” a spokesperson for the brand tells Hanbury, whose story includes Subway’s handouts of the new look.
But given their thin margins, the cost of remodeling will be tough for some franchisees to stomach, the AP’s Choi suggests. “How do you require someone to do something that they can't financially do?” Keith Miller, who has three Subway stores in Northern California and heads the Coalition of Franchisee Associations, asks her.
Subway’s Haynes tells CNBC’s Whitten that it will offer “incentives and ‘competitively priced packages’ to help with the cost. He also said that many franchisees have embraced the new restaurants’ look and have eagerly begun revamping their locations.”
Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes is one Millennial who is off put by all the high-tech features and gizmos. The touchscreen kiosks lack the human connection that Estes experienced in his youth, when his dad would take him to the only Subway in Knoxville, Tenn., and they’d “work with a Sandwich Artist to construct a floppy log of meat and veggies before your very eyes,” as he recalls.
“Here goes another vestige of my ’90s childhood, now corrupted and confused like the rest of this country and this planet. Maybe I’m being conservative, clinging to the past like this. Maybe, in the future, we’ll get all of our meals from apps and kiosks. …,” he continues, while allowing that, well, you don’t have to use the smartphone app and maybe he ought to give it a chance
At least one outside skeptic, meanwhile, suggests that the chain put more focus on what it’s serving than the ambience it’s serving it in.
“You have some pretty grody Subways out there,” John Gordon, a San Diego-based restaurant consultant, tells NRN’s Maze. “But they’re not awful. I think it’s far more important what the food is.”
But let's face it, grody is not a word anybody wants anywhere near the sign over their portal.