Subway says it’s hitting record sales. Here’s why

Subway says its most extensive menu makeover in the company’s nearly 60-year history is paying off.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose 8.4% in the third quarter, the privately held company announced Wednesday. For the past 18 months, Subway said it had “record-setting sales” across its roughly 20,000 US locations, bolstered by a number of changes that include new sandwiches, soups and store remodels.

Subway attributed its recent success to its new “Subway Series” menu, which was streamlined to help speed up service, and an increase in digital orders.

“The results from the Subway Series launch and the positive reaction from guests and franchisees demonstrates that our transformation strategy is working,” said Trevor Haynes, president of Subway North America, in the release.

The Subway Series is a more neatly organized 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 slight tweaks.

It was the biggest change Subway rolled out since its July 2021 refresh, which focused on upgraded ingredients and upgraded app.

In another positive benchmark for the struggling chain, Subway said September sales grew nearly 11% compared to the same month a year earlier. It’s a stark turnaround for the chain, which has been dealing with declining sales and store count as people gravitate toward its rivals.

Sales at Subway’s US locations have been falling in recent years, according to the research firm Technomic. System-wide sales at Subway’s US locations were $12.3 billion in 2013, which was its best year of the past 15 years. in 2021, sales slumped to $9.4 billion, according to Technomic’s analysis. The number of locations has declined for the fifth year in a row to 20,746 per Subway’s website.

Subway didn’t provide dollar amounts for its 2022 sales Wednesday.

Franchises have long been vocal with the chain about making changes to its staid menu and store’s appearances. In one flashpoint last year, some Subway franchise operators have complained publicly about the company’s treatment of them.

Notably, Wednesday’s press release features a quote from Donna Curry, a Subway franchisee that owns about 65 locations.

“We are hearing from guests that they like the flexibility of ordering by name and number and are enjoying the new Subway Series sandwiches, which is reflected in the increased traffic and sales across my restaurants,” she said.

Soups were the latest focus of Subway’s multi-year transformation plan. Last month, it rolled out three refreshed soups: broccoli cheddar, chicken noodle and loaded baked potato.