America's Biggest Sandwich Chain Closed 1,000 Locations Last Year
America's largest sandwich chain is shrinking. According to the latest reports on the state of affairs over at Subway, the chain continues to shutter its American locations en masse and has lost as much as 5% of its domestic footprint during 2021 alone.
As Restaurant Business reports, Subway's franchisees have shuttered more than 1,000 locations last year, bringing the chain's American store count down to just over 21,000. For comparison's sake, the chain boasted more than 27,000 domestic units in 2013.
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The number of net closures in 2021 was lower than in 2020 when the chain lost upward of 1,600 restaurants (and according to franchisees, well over 2,000)—more than any other chain in the history of the business.
However, according to CEO John Chidsey, it's all part of the plan, and Subway isn't rushing to continue the frenzied growth it has been known for.
"I don't really see a lot of growth in the U.S.," he said earlier this year. "I still think there's some non-traditional opportunities in the U.S. But we want to get away from being so unit-focused in the U.S and focus more on the quality of what we have."
On the other hand, a franchisee who spoke to us last year predicted the chain's demise could very well come from the demise of its mom-and-pop operators, who are closing up shop and getting out of the system.
"If Subway continues to ignore franchisees and do nothing, it wouldn't surprise me if another 25% of the stores are gone in the next three years since the franchisees whose lease is coming up for renewal are not favorably eyeing this business," he said.
The chain's recent sales paint a more optimistic picture. Thanks to an extensive menu upgrade that was rolled out last July, Subway saw record sales in the summer the likes of which it hadn't seen in eight years. Critics, however, contended that the improvement in the chain's 2021 numbers was largely due to price inflation. Overall, the company is still chasing its pre-pandemic sales levels and lagging behind competitors, according to Restaurant Business.
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