What you never knew about Subway's $5 footlong promotion

You've likely cashed in on Subway's $5 footlong deal at some point or another. You've even more likely heard the jingle: "Five dollar, five dollar footlong..." But have you heard the story behind it all?

It all started back in 2004, when franchise owner Stuart Frankel noticed that sales were dropping at his two Subway locations in Miami. According to Franchise Help, Frankel decided the best way to grab customers' attention was to cater to what it was they needed from a sandwich shop amid a dwindling economy: a quick and easy lunch for a rounded, cheap price. And thus, the $5 footlong deal was born.

Once Subway hopped aboard Frankel's $5 train, the company's popularity started trending upwards. In fact, Vice reports that between 1998 and 2011, business nearly tripled. Throughout that time, the sandwich chain raked in $11.5 billion in sales, which cemented the promotion's well-earned place in viral marketing history.

That infamous Subway jingle launched the chain towards success

While the sandwich bargain alone was great enough to attract customers both new and old, what really set the deal apart from competitors' promotions was the undeniably catchy tune that accompanied it. Subway and advertising agency MMB set out to get their message playing on televisions across the country, and their plan was simple: create a straightforward jingle that will undoubtedly get stuck in viewers' heads (via Slate). 

According to Yahoo, the commercial took off in 2008 alongside the nationwide rollout of the $5 footlong promotion. Success was nearly immediate, with customers blissfully humming along at home and others making internet parody videos joking about the literal lyrics. In 2020 — over a decade after the initial launch of the promotion — Subway reintroduced its famous deal at select locations with a remix of the OG jingle, this time featuring singer-songwriter Charlie Puth (via Thrillist).

Subway's $5 footlong hit multiple roadblocks over the years

Subway's jingle was an instant hit, but the same couldn't be said for the promotion itself, which struggled to keep customers and franchise owners happy.

According to NBC, the chain planned to launch national $5 footlongs for a short time, then extended it after seeing sales skyrocket. The outlet also reports that the demand nearly overtook the supply. Panicked franchisees scrambled to fulfill bread and plastic bag orders.

Many owners eventually found that offering the $5 footlong wasn't in their best interest with the changing economy. In 2017, franchisee Keith Miller shared with the Washington Post that it cost over $4 to make one $5 footlong. Miller wasn't the only owner to face this struggle, a petition popped up urging the chain to let franchisees decide whether or not to offer the promotion.

Customers also grew wary of the deal, reports Andrew Baugher. He explains that some even filed a class action suit against the chain for false advertising. The complaint? Subway was serving 11-inch subs, not 12-inch ones.

The case was eventually rejected by the court, but the damage was done. So, if you're wondering where the $5 footlong that once played on a loop in your head has gone, just know: Subway has tried to relaunch the promotion several times over the years, but most franchise owners continue to fight back (via Eat This, Not That!). But don't worry — you can always grab one of their famous cookies!