As it rolls out a dramatically new store design, complete with a new brand logo, Subway is looking to catch up to the fast-casual competition with a new store concept that includes a bright vegetable display front and center. For Subway’s thousands of franchisees, the mandatory remodel program includes three tiers that allow varying levels of equipment reuse.
Subway’s VP of Operations, Trevor Haynes, is an extremely enthusiastic brand ambassador, and shared his excitement as one of the main point people responsible for designing and implementing the new restaurant design across the globe. He said the remodel program is much needed, since its last major upgrade was rolled out approximately a decade ago. Moving quickly to settle on a design that endures, he added, has been a key part of the plan.
“If you ask our design firm that we worked with, they said we’ve never seen an organization move as fast as we have,” Haynes said. “It’s a really great example of our entire system working on this together from across all levels.”
Franchisees from across the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom were brought in to share their input, along with the brand’s corporate team based in Milford, Connecticut. The very first example of the new design opened in Knoxville, Tennessee, which he said is a very typical Subway location and one that’s been used to show off the dramatic new design.
“When I went there the second day it was open, it was a really phenomenal experience,” Haynes said. “Photographs don’t capture the actual feeling you have in the space—it’s fresh and bright, it’s Subway [and] the food is displayed beautifully.”
Putting the fresh bread and vegetables front and center is a key part of fitting with other fast-casual brands that put a focus on showing customers where the food comes from and how it’s made—those oft-mentioned millennial desires for transparency and authenticity.
Asked about his favorite element, Haynes pointed to the new veggie displays and the new logo, internally called the “S Choice Mark” that he said effectively communicates Subway’s cleaner new look and feel.
Self-ordering kiosks are intended to reduce time spent waiting in line, which has certainly been a longstanding hallmark of the Subway experience, along with many other fast-casual concepts that bring guests through the assembly line. When possible, the new concept also includes an auxiliary production line to boost catering and delivery production. Subway is conducting ongoing testing with Grubhub, the largest third-party delivery player in the U.S.
For dine-in customers, the new design includes "curated music," more comfortable seating, USB charging ports and complimentary wireless internet.
With more than 45,000 locations across the globe—Subway is the fifth largest U.S.-based franchises by global sales—rolling out a new restaurant design is a massive undertaking, and one that takes buy-in from the franchisee network. The company estimates it will take several years for the entire system to adopt the new concept, but that speed is just as important in implementation as it was during the design phase.
The three tiers available for franchisees are broken into three categories: A, B and C. Tier A includes a full design implementation with reuse of existing equipment in some cases. Tier B also includes reuse of existing equipment in some cases, but also includes sneeze-guard covers, a complete lighting overhaul, new furniture package, flooring, wall decor and digital menus. Tier C is the most comprehensive, including everything above and going even further for a dramatic new look.
The company wasn’t ready to share financing details, but said the company is working with the franchisees’ Independent Purchasing Co-op to finalize those details. The goal, it said, was ensuring that franchisees are informed of the plan before it goes public.