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Subway’s ‘Eat Fresh Refresh’ revamp

“Subway: Eat Fresh” has long been a slogan for the quick-service sandwich giant, making it the first as well as the largest chain in that segment to market itself based around the health halo of freshness rather than speed or indulgence.

But just like food, marketing initiatives can get stale, and over time assembling deli meat on rolls, no matter how many vegetables are available to go with it, loses some of its luster. 

So last year the Milford, Conn.-based franchisor undertook the largest menu update in its more than 50-year history, involving a top-to-bottom reexamination of everything on the menu.

The result has been improved bread, including new Artisan Italian and Hearty Multigrain options, and new ingredients including fresh mozzarella and smashed avocado, plus upgraded deli meats including Black Forest ham, steak and rotisserie-style chicken.

The chain also launched new sandwiches, including the Cali Fresh Sub made with roasted turkey or steak with bacon, smashed avocado, fresh mozzarella, mayonnaise, spinach, red onion and tomatoes.

“We’ve seen a really good uptick across the course of this year,” Subway president Trevor Haynes told NRN in a podcast last November.

He said the new initiative “really galvanized our franchisee base … they were curious and cautious [at first] and as we laid into it they became more optimistic.”

That was especially true once the new ingredients arrived around six weeks before the launch.

“As they sampled the products, they started to get very excited about it,” he said.

The refresh was a long time in coming, Haynes said.

“You can’t just turn on a new bread formula in a system of more than 20,000 restaurants on a dime,” he said. In fact, those bread formulations started at the beginning of 2019.

Over the course of the pandemic, Subway’s management looked at other gaps in the menu, and as the country reopened, they decided to pull the trigger on the rebrand in early July 2021.

The refresh is an ongoing process, however. In January the chain rolled out a Baja Turkey Avocado sub with the new turkey and avocado, plus a new Baja Chipotle sauce, as well as Honey Mustard Rotisserie-Style Chicken sub using the new chicken and a honey mustard sauce on the new multigrain roll.

The innovation continued in March with the permanent addition of Italian subs featuring its new meats and cheeses, plus Parmesan vinaigrette, on the new Artisan Italian rolls.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary