Weird Rules Subway Employees Have To Follow

You don't get to be the largest fast food chain on the planet without having a few rules in place to ensure order and consistency. As it turns out, the rules imposed on employees at Subway — which is indeed the largest fast-food chain, with more branches than any other restaurant, according to the company's website — are often all about creating consistency with customer orders. The one exception is when the customer asks for customization, which workers are required to grant, even if it leads to a decidedly odd sandwich.

Working at Subway starts with an interview, then involves a rigorous five-day training period complete with a pre-test and additional testing at the end of every training day session. Your time at Subway can end quickly: Just three violations of the rules ("write-ups," as the employee manual calls them), and an employee is terminated. Those that make the cut can count on a job that is engaging and rewarding at times, busy and stressful at others, and a bit boring in between. Regardless of whether it's the lunchtime rush or a slow stretch in the afternoon, Subway employees are always bound by the same rules, some of which are rather odd.

Prepared meats must be cooked, no exceptions

All of the prepared meats offered to a customer at a Subway restaurant must be cooked before they are served, and that's true even if a customer doesn't want a hot sandwich, according to a post shared on Reddit. If you request, say, a rotisserie chicken sandwich but don't want it toasted, the employee will then have to microwave the meat instead, and only then put it on your sandwich. 

This required "cooking" is performed even though all of the meat is pre-cooked — the secondary heating can kill off the bacteria e. coli, thus the requirement that employees heat the meat even if they're not zapping the entire sandwich. For reference, temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit will kill e. coli, according to Science of Cooking. Per the Cleveland Clinic, you definitely want all of that bacteria dead, as it can lead to severe stomach pain, cramping, diarrhea, internal bleeding, and, in extreme cases, even kidney failure. So cut the Subway folks a break on this one, or just get the sandwich toasted — it tastes better that way anyway.

They are only supposed to give you six olives per sandwich

According to self-proclaimed former Subway employees sounding off on Reddit and reported by Mashed earlier, the staff at Subway restaurants are only supposed to give you six olives per sandwich. It's even worse news if you are ordering a 6-inch sandwich, because then you are only supposed to get three olives. This is because the black olives are apparently considered "high end" vegetables, meaning they cost more money. Tomato and cucumber slices also fall under this definition, so you may be able to watch as a Subway worker carefully limits the amount of these foods added to each sandwich. Then again, at other locations olives are added as generously as any other veggie — Subways are all franchise-based operations, so different stores will be more or less stringent about different policies.

By the way, there are indeed non-high end veggies: Lettuce, spinach, and onions, for example, will be heaped on by the handful. Also, here's the catch: While Subway employees are told to limit the volume of high end veggies they add to each sandwich, they are also obliged to add more if a customer asks. So watch closely as your sandwich is assembled and feel free to ask for more olives ... or tomatoes or cucumber and so on.

They must provide double the cheese for Veggie Delight sandwiches

Subway's policy is that anyone getting a Veggie Delight sandwich is entitled to double the amount of cheese that comes on a sandwich with meat or with a vegetarian patty — that amount of cheese is four slices for a footlong sandwich, or two slices for a 6-inch sandwich, for the record. But here's the thing: At almost every Subway, the customer ordering the Veggie Delight has to ask for the extra cheese.

To be clear, you are entitled to double cheese with a Veggie Delight, and Subway workers know that. You just have to ask for it before you will get it. When you do, never fear, because you will not be charged extra. For those of you who order sandwiches with meat but still yearn for more than two or four slices of cheese, you can pay for double cheese and only lay out an additional 30 cents for extra cheese on a 6-inch or 60 cents for double the cheese on a footlong sub, according to Real Menu Prices.

Subway employees must provide you each sandwich ingredient separately if you ask

If you have ever seen someone walk into a Subway and request myriad different ingredients packaged up and handed over separately, this was not a one-time fluke, and it was not an occurrence that you will only see at that one specific Subway location. It happens all the time, according to this poster on Quora

A customer may order a sandwich and then, for example, request the tomatoes and the cucumber packed up separately, which would make sense if they were going to eat it later and didn't want it getting soggy. Or they may ask for the ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, black olives, and all the rest of it packaged up separately, and the worker will hand over the effectively disassembled (or yet-to-be assembled) sandwich. Even the dressing can be taken to-go in a little souffle cup.

Employees must give you as many veggies as you want on your sandwich

Remember how Subway employees have to give you all of your ingredients separately if you ask? They are also supposed to give you as much as you want when said ingredients are the lower-cost veggies. According to answers posted to a forum on Quora, there is technically no limit to the amount of vegetables a Subway employee can give a customer who has ordered a sandwich (or wrap or salad). One former employee described how one enterprising and unscrupulous customer would come in daily and request so much lettuce that the staff would preemptively have two bags ready to accommodate it all, with more lettuce at the ready to replenish the supplies at the counter (via Buzzfeed).

So go ahead and ask for extra onions or green peppers or jalapeños, or even request more black olives and extra tomatoes. The workers may not be thrilled with you, but they will oblige you, even if you ask for so much extra lettuce that they can't fit it on the bread and end up grabbing a bag.

Workers have to customize sandwiches the way customers ask

You know how a good friend or trusted family member can be there to save you from yourself, stopping you from making some poor life choice or other? Plenty of Subway workers may be great friends or family members when not at work, but when they're on the job, they can't save you from your own poor choices when it comes to sandwich making. Subway workers are, within reason, obliged to make each and every change to a sandwich that a customer asks for. According to BuzzFeed, that has led to some truly horrific sandwiches.

One former Subway employee said, "[We] used to have a guy come in regularly to order a footlong on white, with just double mayo, salt, and pepper." Another recounted an awful but easy-to-make sandwich, saying the customer asked for a "6-inch on honey wheat, just condiments ... All of them, if you don't mind."

Surely the worst of all the sandwiches reported in the article was the meatball-cookie sub. Yes, meatballs. And cookies. The employee said, "This guy got a meatball sub ... then he continued to ask for numerous veggies. That's not too strange, people do that sometimes. Then he asked for like four different sauces on it. And here's the kicker: he asked for two chocolate chip cookies crumbled onto it. CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES ON A MEATBALL SUB WITH A LOAD OF VEGGIES AND A DISGUSTING COMBINATION OF SAUCES."

Employees are officially known as Sandwich Artists

Don't call them employees. Or staff. Or workers or chefs or cooks. Call them artists ... Sandwich Artists. That's right, the people who work at Subway restaurants are officially known as Sandwich Artists — and Subway has even registered the term, showing the company's commitment to that terminology. And what does a Sandwich Artist have to do? Quite a lot, according to Waterproof Menu. An excerpt shared there taken from an actual Subway job description reads in part, "A Sandwich Artist® greets and serves guests, prepares food, maintains food safety and sanitation standards, and handles or processes light paperwork. Exceptional customer service is a major component of this position."

As for the attributes an aspiring Sandwich Artist must have, those are, "Some high school or equivalent [education] ... the ability to understand and implement written and verbal instructions... [and] must be able to work any area of the restaurant when needed and to operate a computerized Point of Sale system/cash register. Position requires bending, standing, and walking the entire workday. Must have the ability to lift 10 pounds frequently and up to 50 pounds occasionally."

The Sandwich Artist hiring process includes at least six written tests

Those Sandwich Artist requirements we just discussed may not sound like the highest standards any job has ever demanded, but don't think you can just breeze your way into a job off the street. There is a rigorous training period, and a lot of tests, as it turns out. According to a copy of an official Subway Employee Training Manual, "The training process begins with a pre-test. You will be given one pre-test before all 5 of your training shifts." 

Guess what happens after each of those five training days? That's right, another test! A later excerpt from the manual reads, "At the end of every shift you will receive a post-test related to everything you trained for that day. You are required to pass every post-test in order for you to pass the validation at the end of your training. During validation, you will be asked a few questions about the Subway process and finally, if you proceed to answer these questions correctly, you will be awarded the job."

Employees must arrive 5 minutes early and be willing to stay late when things are busy

Technically, Subway employees — or Sandwich Artists, that is — need only be on time for their shift, not early, but if they arrive merely on time, they must "come ready to get straight to work," according to the employee handbook. Thus the suggestion is made that workers arrive at the restaurant "at least five minutes before their shift."

When it comes to staying after your shift is over, that can be a non-negotiable issue when the circumstances warrant. "Employees must be willing to stay past their scheduled time at times when the store does happen to get busy," the manual says. And don't even think about an unexcused absence if you want to retain your Sandwich Artist role. "If you happen to miss a shift and don't call and give the manager a reason as to why, you will be terminated."

Sandwich Artists have to greet all customers the same way

Sandwich Artists have to greet all customers the same way, and that greeting is to say "Welcome to Subway," according to the official rules. This is true whether there isn't another customer in the shop or if there is a queue snarling around the place. When a worker spots a new customer walk through the door, they will dutifully say "Welcome to Subway" lest the person in question be offended or, worse, be an undercover representative from the company.

Not only must customers be greeted in a certain way, but they also must be treated in a certain way. The guidance given is, "Customers must be treated in a professional manner, be patient with customers, even if they are giving you trouble. Last but not least, remember that the customer is always right." So as it happens, Sandwich Artists need to add thick skin and equanimity in with the other attributes required for success.