Subway says its most extensive menu change in the company’s nearly 60-year history is paying off.
Sales at stores open at least a year rose 8.4 percent in the third quarter, the privately held company said Wednesday. Over the past 18 months, Subway said it had “record sales” at its roughly 20,000 U.S. locations, boosted by a series of changes that include new sandwiches, soups and store renovations.
Subway has credited its recent success to its new “Subway Series” menu, which has been tweaked to help speed up service and increase digital ordering.
“The results from the launch of the Subway Series and the positive response from guests and franchisees prove that our transformation strategy is working,” Trevor Haynes, president of Subway North America, said in the release.
The Subway Series is a more streamlined menu, divided into four categories (Cheesesteaks, Italianos, Chicken and Clubs) and consisting of three sandwiches each. All 12 sandwiches are new to the menu, with some essentially replacing previous versions with new names and minor tweaks.
It was the biggest change Subway rolled out since its July 2021 refresh, which focused on upgraded ingredients and an upgraded app.
In another positive sign for the struggling chain, Subway said September sales were up nearly 11 percent compared to the same month a year earlier. It’s a sharp turnaround for the chain, which has faced declining sales and store numbers as people flock to its rivals.
Sales at Subway locations in the U.S. have been declining in recent years, according to research firm Technomic. Systemwide sales at Subway’s U.S. locations were $12.3 billion in 2013, its best year in 15 years. in 2021, sales fell to $9.4 billion, according to Technomic’s analysis. The number of locations fell for the fifth year in a row to 20,746 per Subway site.
Subway did not provide dollar amounts for its 2022 sales on Wednesday.
Franchisees have long been vocal with the chain about making changes to the menu and store appearances. In a flashpoint last year, some Subway franchise operators publicly complained about the company’s treatment of them.
Notably, Wednesday’s press release contains a quote from Donna Curry, a Subway franchisee that owns about 65 locations.
“We hear from guests that they like the flexibility of ordering by name and number and enjoy the new Subway line of sandwiches, which is reflected in increased traffic and sales at my restaurants,” he said.
Soups were the latest focus of Subway’s multi-year transformation plan. Last month, it launched three revamped soups: Broccoli Cheddar, Chicken Noodle and Loaded Baked Potato.