Subway Is Reportedly Looking For a New Owner In a $10 Billion Sale
Subway, the largest restaurant chain in terms of U.S. locations, could be looking to sell, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. The report cites a source that is familiar with the deal. The source reportedly revealed that the chain, famous for its "Eat Fresh" tagline, has retained advisers to explore a tremendous sale valued at potentially $10 billion.
When—or even if—this could happen is completely up in the air, though the source says it is in its early stages. Subway would neither confirm nor deny the rumors. "As a privately held company, we don't comment on ownership structure and business plans," the company told The Wall Street Journal. "We continue to be focused on moving the brand forward with our transformational journey to help our franchisees be successful and profitable."
Subway, which has over 20,000 U.S. locations, achieved $9.4 billion in sales in 2021, up 13% from the year prior. That's still far lower than the $11.5 billion the company pulled in in 2015, according to Statista. It was already facing a downturn when the pandemic saw the chain report a five-year low of $8.2 billion.
At the leadership level, the company has seen a huge transformation over the last decade as it changed hands from its founding families. When co-founder Fred Deluca stepped down due to a leukemia diagnosis in 2013 he handed the company to his sister, Suzanne Greco, who retired in 2018. Co-founder Peter Buck also passed away in 2021. In 2019, John Chidsey was appointed CEO and was the first leader outside the core two founding families to run the company. The families of the late founders would earn billions if the sale was to go through, says Bloomberg.
Since Chidsey's appointment, he has been trying to improve the company's optics and products. One of his biggest initiatives was "Eat Fresh Refresh" which launched in 2021 in an effort to revamp the menu, coming off of a trying 2020 in which the company closed nearly 1,000 stores.
Despite the focus on better quality ingredients and new signature items, the chain was still losing customers to competitors like Jersey Mike's who embraced digital ordering and delivery. Subway has also run into issues with franchisees complaining about food quality and other company mandates. And of course, there was the imprisonment of spokesperson Jared Fogle and the issue with the chain being sued over its sketchy tuna.
Recently, the chain has begun a transformation of quality over quantity, with a focus on franchisees owning multiple stores, format—including drive-thrus and a focus on digital ordering—and remodeling.