Why Your Local Subway's Remodel May Take Longer Than Anticipated

Back in 2017, Subway decided to update the look of its restaurants. According to NBC, the sandwich chain had maintained the same look for about 20 years and the planned revamp aimed to replace its previous brick and subway car design with better lighting, brighter colors, and modern furniture. Restaurant Dive reported that the chain decided to modernize its look again in 2019, with funds provided to 10,500 stores to help cover some of the expenses. At the time, the company estimated that the redesign would take over a year, and if everything went well, each store would finish its makeover by the end of 2020. And then the pandemic happened.

Restaurant Business found that, so far, 4,000 Subway locations have finished their remodeling process, while the total scope was reduced from the original figures to cover only 8,800 locations total. The improvements went hand-in-hand with a menu changeup in 2021 that featured a collaboration with star baker Nancy Silverton and also introduced better-quality meat, per QSR. And while the brand found a way to get its new menu selection to market in locations nationwide, many Subway spots continue to struggle with their interior redesign.

The new look is taking longer than expected due to supply chain issues

A solid portion of the Subway restaurants that need a redesign have fallen significantly behind schedule, according to Restaurant Business. For the most part, supply chain issues lay at the root of the problem, and some locations have found they haven't been able to secure the right equipment to help them redesign their spaces. 

The restaurants that have found ways to make the change have reported better sales now thanks to the new marketing and menu strategies as part of the global "Eat Fresh Refresh" initiative. The new interior design, featuring even brighter colors, has helped modernize the chain, though they continue to lack automated order kiosks like other fast food giants. Instead, Subway wants customers to use its mobile app, according to the article, and have also added more features to incentivize this practice, like curbside pickup and delivery.

The Subway corporate offices originally provided individual grants of up to $10,000 for restaurants to help cover the visual updates. So far, roughly 4,000 Subway locations have finished their renovation processes, with more than 4,000 more locations committed to remodeling by July 2022 through the grant program. As Restaurant Business points out, the franchise operators that failed to take the incentive will have to do the remodel when their agreement requires them to. So it really could be years until all locations are up to date — and the supply chain issues that exist now certainly aren't helping matters.