The Gross Reason Subway Franchises Are Demanding More Frequent Deliveries

Subway faces another round of franchisee discontentment as store owners have begun to publicly complain about the brand's stocking practices. Talking to the New York Post, store owners have said that they only receive fresh food in packages delivered once a week. "[The pre-shredded lettuce] is vacuum-packed, but the reality is it's not fresh," one source told the paper. "If I have it for seven days, it is more like 15 to 20 days since it was picked."

This follows a viral TikTok reported by the Daily Mail in which one employee revealed how Subway's steak arrives at the restaurant: tubed and having the visual texture of "cat food." That, in turn, was followed by a letter franchisees sent to Elisabeth DeLuca, one of the owners of Subway, on April 19 ,with a list of issues that need addressing. The listed issues, as summarized by Business Insider, included the company's refusal to send them higher quality ingredients, their insistence on expanding the number of locations to a point where they essentially compete with each other, and a refusal to allow stores to cut hours in the face of the pandemic.

Subway subsists on infighting

Readers might remember Mashed's coverage of the clash over roast beef and rotisserie chicken that resolved itself at the end of March. In June 2020, Fox reported that Subway corporate had decided to discontinue the roast beef and rotisserie chicken offerings at their restaurants. Per Business Insider, the return of these ingredients led to franchisees grumbling that both the removal and return were top-down orders and that, as one said, "[Newly hired CEO John Chidsey] doesn't really communicate well with franchisees ... It's obvious that he thinks franchisees are his employees."

In that context, there is an added impetus for the franchisees to publicly air their grievances. While the franchise model has store owners operate within the branding they have bought into, it usually comes with at least the semblance of autonomy. Here that relationship is ruptured in ways that hurt the stores themselves. Vocal franchisees are demanding the right to stock their stores. However, one former owner did tell the New York Post that that practice could lead to radical shifts in quality and, in times of disrupted supply lines, insecurity not felt when Subway controls a centralized supplier. "You don't always get the best price, but in times of drought or bad weather the supply remained much more predictable than buying locally." But with a predictably bad relationship, franchisees seem set to navigate potentially good, if unpredictable, waters.