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Subway's Latest Move Toward Fresher Ingredients Is Leaving Customers Skeptical

Either way, it's all about the meat.

It's better late than never for Subway, as the behemoth sandwich chain looks to live up to its long-time "Eat Fresh!" slogan. CEO John Chidsey revealed to CNN last week that deli meat slicers are coming to every single Subway location in 2023.

Despite being the undisputed most profitable sandwich brand in the world, Subway restaurants have never featured deli slicers like many competitors including Jimmy John's or Jersey Mike's. Up until now, the Connecticut-based chain had always opted to ship meats to stores pre-sliced.

"We were one of the few, if only, sub shop that didn't slice in-restaurant. Not only does it give the guest a better perception of seeing the nice, fluffy meat, but we save a lot of money since we were paying a lot of money to have it sliced upstream," Chidsey explains.

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So does this mean no more soggy, unappetizing day-old meat staring back at Subway customers as they place their orders? Theoretically yes, but Subway employees and customers alike are skeptical about how these deli slicers will actually be put to use.

Right off the bat, while the idea of a sandwich made (and sliced) to order is certainly appealing, it hardly gels with Subway's assembly line approach that has worked so well for the brand thus far. Operating a meat slicer is no joke, and requires careful preparation and cleanup. If Subway employees will be expected to slice meat individually per sandwich order, it's going to increase prep times considerably.

Many appearing to be Subway employees shared such worries on the Subway subreddit (r/Subway) when news of the slicers first broke. "Lmfao this will be hell in my busy understaffed store 💀 I'll have a line out the door with just 1 new coworker 🙃 'one minute sir lemme just cut 12 slices of turkey,'" writes one user. "The one I work at just got it yesterday. I dread having to use it. We also don't even have the space for it, so that's gonna be a huge issue," another Redditor adds.

subway worker
Darya Kaufman / Shutterstock

Of course, Subway workers don't necessarily have to wait for an order to start slicing. Another Redditor chimed in on the same thread, and explained that many Subways will likely schedule "batch slicing" in the morning to cover the entire day. That same comment suggests most of the slicing will be performed automatically.

"We will be batch slicing in the morning versus slicing for each sandwich. Instead of pulling slices apart to prep them you can just toss a meat log on the slicer and let it do its thing," the comment reads.

What almost certainly won't happen automatically, however, is the clean-up afterward. Deli slicers quickly become hotbeds for bacteria and food poisoning if they aren't cleaned after every single use.

"This will be a sanitation nightmare," writes one Redditor in the r/fastfood subreddit. "Deli slicers can be dangerous. I just don't see how Subway is going to get all locations in the US to have people well trained on deli-slicer safety, as well as cleaning, and mechanical upkeep," adds another user.

While it remains to be seen just how successful Subway's deli slicer initiative turns out to be, one can reasonably expect the sandwich chain to have another great fiscal year in 2023. Subway generated $9.4 billion in sales in 2021, and same-store sales grew by 9.2% year-over-year in 2022.

"It was another great year for us in our transformation journey," Chidsey comments. "The momentum that was created in 2021, we maintained in 2022 and we're off to a great start in 2023."

It's an interesting time for the mega-successful sandwich brand in more ways than one. Last month the Wall Street Journal reported that Subway, a private company, is quietly exploring a potential sale. If a deal does occur, the sandwich chain boasting over 36,000 locations all over the world is expected to be valued in excess of $10 billion.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more about John