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Why Subway Quietly Shuttered Hundreds of Restaurants Last Year

The sandwich chain's closures continued in 2023, bringing it down to its lowest size since 2005.

Mass restaurant closures have plagued Subway for nearly a decade, with the chain shuttering hundreds and even more than a thousand units in recent years. According to newly released data, the sandwich slinger continued to shrink in 2023.

Subway shuttered a net total of 443 locations in the United States last year, QSR Magazine reported. That's notably fewer closures than the 571 it netted in 2022 and 1,043 in 2021. Still, the continued loss of restaurants has brought Subway to its lowest store count since 2005, per Restaurant Business Magazine.

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The chain ended 2023 with 20,133 locations in the United States, allowing it to hold onto its title as the country's largest restaurant chain by store count. However, Subway's closures have allowed two of its key competitors—McDonald's and Starbucks—to surpass it in size globally. While Subway now has nearly 37,000 locations across more than 100 countries, McDonald's boasts more than 40,000 and Starbucks boasts more than 38,000.

Last year marked the eighth consecutive year of closures for the chain, per Restaurant Business Magazine. After facing lagging sales, discord with its restaurant operators, food quality complaints, and issues with its public image in recent years, Subway has been shuttering underperforming locations to improve the overall health of its business.

Subway worker making sandwich
Darya Kaufman / Shutterstock

The company has also rolled out a string of other initiatives to refresh its brand and menu and improve its fortunes. Subway has overhauled its menu with new-and-improved ingredients, introduced freshly sliced meats, and debuted plenty of new sandwich options. Additionally, it has remodeled thousands of existing restaurants, sold itself to the parent company of several other popular fast-food chains, and has been replacing the mom-and-pop operators it historically relied on with larger, more experienced franchisees.

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These efforts already seem to be paying off. Subway's revenues and average sales per store both improved last year, though the average sales haven't kept pace with inflation, according to Restaurant Business Magazine.

When contacted for comment on the latest closures, a Subway spokesperson shared the following statement with Eat This, Not That!:

"As part of Subway's transformation journey to improve across all aspects of the brand, Subway experienced positive global net restaurant growth for the first time since 2016 last year. In the U.S., we are optimizing our footprint by using a strategic, data-driven approach to ensure restaurants are in the right location, image and format. This includes opening new locations, relocating restaurants to maximize guest traffic, and closing locations when needed."

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe