The Real Reason You've Been Seeing Fewer Subway Restaurants

If you've found yourself driving further and further recently to get your hands on a footlong, you're not alone. According to Restaurant Business Online, Subway shuttered close to 1,000 of its restaurant locations in 2021. These closures have been happening for some time now — The New York Post reported in 2021 that "a net 14 percent of US Subway restaurants have closed" since 2018.

Fans of the sandwich chain who remember the massive menu changes Subway made in 2021 may find this news somewhat surprising. The "Eat Fresh Refresh" revamp introduced over 20 menu updates, including the addition of BelGioioso Fresh Mozzarella and Hearty Multigrain Bread (via Chew Boom). Judging by the numbers, the refresh was a huge success. After the menu changes were made, Eat This, Not That! reported Subway saw sales increases to the tune of 33% at some of its high-performing locations. So, what is causing the latest slew of closures at Subway?

Subway faces unhappy franchisees

One factor in Subway's closures? Its franchisees. Last year, over 100 Subway franchisees made the company aware of some of their frustrations in a letter to the company. Business Insider reported that those franchisees got together to pen a letter to one of Subway's co-owners, Elisabeth DeLuca, expressing how owning a Subway franchise had "turned into a nightmare." They cited decisions made by the company like allowing too many locations to open and barring franchisees from limiting operating hours during the pandemic. "If Subway continues to ignore franchisees and do nothing, it wouldn't surprise me if another 25% of the stores are gone in the next three years," one multi-location franchisee told Eat This, Not That!.

Another factor behind why so many Subway locations are closing is the possibility that the chain is just changing direction. According to Nation's Restaurant News, the company may not be as focused on opening more locations as it was in the past (via Eat This, Not That!). As Subway CEO John Chidsey told the publication, "We just want to focus on quality in the footprint in the U.S. as opposed to quantity." He elaborated that he felt the United States was "sort of in a steady state," adding that he feels that growth will take place internationally. Let's just hope Subway can keep some of those new international franchisees happy.