Why Subway Brought Back Its Roast Beef And Rotisserie Chicken Sandwiches

Subway has announced that it will bring back its roast beef and rotisserie chicken sandwich offerings. Though Subway corporate disclosed no further details to Business Insider, a franchisee did admit that the reason behind the ingredients' discontinuation in June, which was a top-down order, was that "they were the two most expensive proteins that we have on the menu." Such expenses were proving too burdensome with the extra costs associated with the then-novel coronavirus pandemic. Still, franchisees reportedly pushed back, saying that while these ingredients did not bring in as much money as tuna, they still enjoyed a solid base of support among their customers. 

As predicted, the cancellation spurred some irate responses from the consumer base, as Fox covered in June. However, the outlet also noted that some stores stated that roast beef barely sold. Evidently, though, enough roast beef had been previously bought, as Subway is reversing its menu-slimming move.

Frictions sparked between franchisees and franchisor

At the end of Business Insider's revelation of the return of the meats, there is a lingering feeling of resentment among the franchisees forced to implement changes with which they disagreed. "[Newly hired CEO John Chidsey] doesn't really communicate well with franchisees," an anonymous source explained. "It's obvious that he thinks franchisees are his employees."

The context of this is that while Subway corporate wanted to remove the popular proteins, they also wanted to promote a 2-for-$10 Footlong deal. Perhaps they intended this as compensation to the consumers who'd lost their preferred meat. Regardless, Restaurant Business wrote that franchisees either refused to promote it or actively pushed back against the deal but were "bullied into honoring a promotion that [was] unprofitable to them."

The idea was to capitalize on the most famous promotion offered by Subway ever. The complaint was that since 2005, labor and food costs had risen to a point that a $5 Footlong was unprofitable for franchisees to offer. However, even if Subway stores lose money and drive their family owners out of business, Subway corporate would still benefit form the ensuing royalties. Franchisees even took the complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that since so many of them didn't intend to honor the promotion, they could be seen as engaging in false advertising and, as nominally independent contractors, see retaliation. As with the rotisserie chicken and roast beef, the franchisees feel the bonds of an unseen owner.