In Focus
MENU INNOVATIONS | Staff Reporter, Australia

Subway presses on with brand transformation by doubling down on provenance

Find out what’s next for one of Australia’s biggest quick service restaurant brands in 2019 and beyond.

In 2017, Subway made an ambitious pledge to overhaul and modernize its ‘dated’ image in an effort to capture a bigger market share.

It was a massive undertaking, a process which involved giving its network of over 1400 stores across Australia a complete makeover, introducing a new range of salad, bread, and other artisan offerings, to partnering up with food delivery platforms to cater to Australia’s burgeoning food delivery market.

Almost two years in, the brand is showing no signs of stopping. In 2018 alone, Subway announced new measures to strengthen its push for sustainability, after reportedly eliminating 76 tonnes of plastic bags and 300,000 kilograms of paper and cardboard from their operations; has completely switched to a local supplier for the estimated 3.5 million kilograms of tomatoes it uses for its popular marinara sauce; and has accomplished one of the most successful charity campaigns in recent industry history.

Subway Country Director for Australia and New Zealand Geoff Cockerill says the brand’s transformation is far from complete.

“Subway is undergoing a major transformation, not just here in Australia but globally, to provide a fresh experience for our guests and help people to fall in love with lunch again,” he exclusively told QSR Media.

“In the past six months we’ve started refreshing our restaurants, enhancing our menu and working on ways to boost the convenience of Subway for our guests. The first of Australia’s newly designed restaurants opened its doors in June 2017, since then we’ve continued to progressively see our restaurants transformed with a fresh modern feel which has been well received by all guests; from teenagers to families to the older generation.”

Subway says they are updating all their consumer-facing channels to enhance their feedback mechanism. Photo: Supplied

Subway’s new restaurants, he said, aim to provide a modern and fun experience for guests of all ages, emphasising the brand’s new vibrant décor and showcasing its fresh, wholesome and locally sourced produce. Part of making this experience work is the updating of all of Subway’s consumer-facing channels, making it easier for customers to deliver any feedback they might have.

“We’re also implementing easier ways to interact with us, such as online ordering and an improved feedback process via social media, along with drive-through capability in some locations. This is about continuing to deliver a better experience for our guests; we want them to feel how fresh and healthy Subway is the moment they come through our doors and to enjoy their time in our restaurants,” Cockerill said.

“We want our guests to know that we have been listening to what they want from us. We are implementing changes to meet their needs and provide them with the highest quality products.”

Coming from an extensive background in a number of international companies such as Diageo and Kirin, and some global brands including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Corona, Cockerill has been tasked with overseeing Subway’s ambitious operational overhaul to its completion.

“When I arrived the team were well underway with a number of game-changing initiatives and I’ve been impressed with the dedication I’ve seen from all corners of the business, to a program of considerable change at a rapid pace. Since I arrived my focus has been to help steward this transformation, as Subway innovates to cater to the evolving tastes of the Australian market,” he said.

With over a thousand stores nationwide, this is no easy feat. Cockerill needs to contend with the changing consumer trends across Australia along with the needs of its many franchise owners and employees.

“Great companies are built on great people, who are passionate about their product. One of the strengths of the Subway brand is that it is built on dedicated franchise owners who believe in our high-quality fresh food and are genuinely excited about continuing to improve our service to guests as our brand transformation is underway,” Cockerill said.

One of Subway's ads for their revamped menu. Source: Subway Australia/YouTube

The latest of such efforts have been the launch of a new, healthier menu seeking to cater to a wide range of dietary needs. The new menu featured new ingredients, added seasonings, and more meat choices like streaky bacon, carved turkey, leg ham, rustic chicken and 100% Aussie beef diced steak. A new vegan sub with malted rye bread with seeds and grains and gluten-free wraps are also available.

The rollout of the new menu involved a six-month trial across 100 Subway restaurants, a rigorous testing period which could only have been accomplished with a strong, capable operations network.

The brand’s relationship with its franchise partners and workforce have also allowed it to become a force for good.

During this year’s World Sandwich Day, Subway donated the cost of more than 340,000 meals to Australians in need of hunger relief, via its partnership with Foodbank. Subway’s Live Feed program saw hundreds of the brand’s franchise owners and employees working with their local communities to help feed Australians in need.

“With an increasing number of Australians experiencing food insecurity and the demand for food relief reaching crisis levels in some areas, I’m proud that Subway’s Live Feed is offering valuable support to children, families and others in need,” Cockerill said.

“It was also powerful to see how our franchise owners, Sandwich Artists and local communities were all 100 per cent committed to making a real and genuine difference through our Live Feed initiative. It is clear that when Aussies are given an opportunity to be part of something bigger, they open their hearts and take action.”

(Also read: Local execution: the secret ingredient behind Subway's Live Feed campaign)

Towards the future, Cockerill said that Subway intends on focusing on its menu options, aiming to offer a new range of real, locally-sourced high-quality ingredients and meal options to its customers. 

Guests can look forward to the introduction of new and improved breads, meats, falafel, cheeses, salads, sauces and seasoning options to inject a new level of flavour and choice, as Subway guns for more a reputation that goes beyond its iconic submarine sandwiches.

All of this, Cockerill said, will be locally-sourced. The brand has renewed its commitment to Australian grown produce, and with its newly launched menu, Subway is sourcing its produce locally more than ever before.

New loyalty programme, mobile app in the works
On the consumer side of things, Subway also announced its plans to launch a new loyalty programme to reward its loyal fans, in addition to a new mobile app that will make ordering sandwiches, wraps, salads, cookies and drinks more convenient than ever.

“At Subway, we’re constantly exploring ways we can improve our overall experience for current guests and for avenues to appeal to a new generation of Subway fans,” Cockerill said.

“We’re conscious that we need to continue to get the basics right, including making sure every guest is welcomed to our restaurants with a friendly smile and enjoys great service every single time regardless of how they engage with us.”

“With the exciting changes taking place within our business, there’s never been a better time for Australian lovers of real, high-quality and delicious food to take a fresh look at Subway. I challenge anyone who hasn’t recently been to one of our restaurants to come and join us - I have no doubt that in doing so, they’ll fall in love with lunch again,” he added.

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