After years of struggles, Subway is unveiling an “Eat Fresh Refresh” transformation plan that overhauls its menu, packaging, app, and even how it delivers.
Subway hasn’t announced how much the multi-year effort will cost but it has been working on the brand refresh for more than 18 months and is planning a heavy dose of marketing to highlight the changes.
Subway is the largest restaurant chain by the number of locations — with some 40,000 globally, including 22,000 in the U.S. — and remains the dominant player in sandwiches. But details the privately-held company doesn’t disclose paint a different picture. Subway’s U.S. sales have fallen for seven consecutive years as it struggles to stand out in a category with competition from a number of growing chains such as Jersey Mike’s, according to data from analysts.
Subway suffered even more than usual in 2020 as more people stayed home and made sandwiches or other meals on their own. Subway’s systemwide sales plunged 18.5% to nearly $8.32 billion last year, according to data compiled by Technomic. The chain even had to deal with negative PR from an investigative feature in the New York Times last month about a lawsuit over whether the tuna it serves contains tuna. Subway’s lengthy response confirmed its use of 100% tuna. Now, the chain says that its tuna isn’t changing as part of the overhauls being announced.
So, if the tuna isn’t changing, what is? A lot.
Subway is making one of the largest media investments in its history to support the Eat Fresh Refresh, according to Carrie Walsh, Subway’s chief marketing officer for North America. Subway has been working on the Eat Fresh Refresh with McGarrryBowen, Current Global, United Entertainment Group, Jack Morton, Carat and Proof Advertising since 2020, she added.
New commercials aren’t out yet, but Subway is explaining the Eat Fresh Refresh on restaurant signs.