When fast-food chain Subway decided to remove the rotisserie chicken sandwich and the roast beef sandwich from its menu last year, customers and even operators were baffled by the decision. According to some employees, the rotisserie chicken sandwich was, in fact, one of the chains top-selling items, so the decision to discontinue it while keeping some less popular items on the menu seemed odd.
The sandwiches were removed from menus in June, and while an official reason was never given for the move, the fact that rotisserie chicken and roast beef were two of the most expensive proteins on Subways menu may have had something to do with it, according to Business Insider.
In the wake of months of complaints and requests to bring one or both items back, many in the form of Tweets aimed at the chain, Subway has finally relented. The chain confirmed that the sandwiches will be returning to their restaurants this summer. Franchise owners are hoping their return will quell what one owner called “horrendous” customer reaction to the menu changes last year.
While the roast beef and rotisserie chicken sandwiches are the favorites of many, neither tops the list of the best Subway sandwiches on any of more than half a dozen reviews surveyed for this article. A ranking of Subway sandwiches by Mashed declared the Spicy Italian “the best sandwich sold at Subway.” Thrillist and Time Out also called the Spicy Italian sandwich the best one on offer, while Urban Matter chose the classic Turkey Breast as their top pick.
At present, Subway has 15 sandwiches on its menu along with 15 “Signature Wraps,” though some of the menu items are temporary, such as the Bacon Tatum sandwich, named for NBA star Jason Tatum, according to Chew Boom.
For more on favorite returning fast-food items, check out 7 Discontinued Items Fast-Food Chains Are Bringing Back This Year, and dont forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox. Steven John Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City.
Customers and franchisees have questioned Subway’s strategy
Subway was among many restaurant chains like McDonalds, Panda Express, and Taco Bell that trimmed menu items during the early days of the pandemic.
But when restrictions lifted in various parts of the US, Subway operators wanted to bring back the two sandwiches to appease consumers, who were demanding the return of the two premium subs on social media.
“The customer reaction was horrendous,” the franchisee said. “People were pissed off that those two items were gone. You would think that they would bring them back faster, but they didnt. But finally, this year, they said they are bringing them back.”
“I wont eat at Subway again until they bring back Roast beef,” reads one recent comment on Subways Facebook page. “I thought it was a temporary thing but the restaurant I was at today said it was a forever thing. So I said thats the stupidest thing I heard today. I canceled my order and walked out.”
The decision to ditch rotisserie chicken and roast beef is not the only strategy that franchisees say has come from the top without support from the operators that own 100% of Subway locations across the US.
Last June, many franchisees refused to participate in a heavily-hyped two-for-$10 sandwich deal. Franchisees told Insider they have also pushed back on the companys decision to require stores to pre-pandemic hours of operation, despite sales slumps and difficulty staffing locations.
Some franchisees blame CEO John Chidsey, who was hired in November 2019, for the top-down approach.
“He doesnt really communicate well with franchisees,” a second franchisee told Insider. This source also asked to remain anonymous as this person was not authorized by the company to speak to the press. “Its obvious that he thinks franchisees are his employees.”
A Subway representative said in a statement to Insider that franchisees “are an important and influential part of our business.”
“We encourage and maintain an open line of communication with our franchise investors to drive long-term growth and evolve our business together, which has recently included navigating through a global pandemic and changes to our menu,” the company said in a statement. “We listen closely to feedback from both franchisees and guests as we continue to grow and transform.”
Are you a Subway franchisee or employee with a story to share? Email [email protected] and [email protected], or get in touch via the Signal encrypted messenger app at (646) 768-4740 or (714) 875-6218
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As predicted, the cancellation spurred some irate responses from the consumer base, as Fox covered in June. However, the outlet also noted that some stores stated that roast beef barely sold. Evidently, though, enough roast beef had been previously bought, as Subway is reversing its menu-slimming move.
The context of this is that while Subway corporate wanted to remove the popular proteins, they also wanted to promote a 2-for-$10 Footlong deal. Perhaps they intended this as compensation to the consumers whod lost their preferred meat. Regardless, Restaurant Business wrote that franchisees either refused to promote it or actively pushed back against the deal but were “bullied into honoring a promotion that [was] unprofitable to them.”
At the end of Business Insiders revelation of the return of the meats, there is a lingering feeling of resentment among the franchisees forced to implement changes with which they disagreed. “[Newly hired CEO John Chidsey] doesnt really communicate well with franchisees,” an anonymous source explained. “Its obvious that he thinks franchisees are his employees.”
The idea was to capitalize on the most famous promotion offered by Subway ever. The complaint was that since 2005, labor and food costs had risen to a point that a $5 Footlong was unprofitable for franchisees to offer. However, even if Subway stores lose money and drive their family owners out of business, Subway corporate would still benefit form the ensuing royalties. Franchisees even took the complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that since so many of them didnt intend to honor the promotion, they could be seen as engaging in false advertising and, as nominally independent contractors, see retaliation. As with the rotisserie chicken and roast beef, the franchisees feel the bonds of an unseen owner.
Subway has announced that it will bring back its roast beef and rotisserie chicken sandwich offerings. Though Subway corporate disclosed no further details to Business Insider, a franchisee did admit that the reason behind the ingredients discontinuation in June, which was a top-down order, was that “they were the two most expensive proteins that we have on the menu.” Such expenses were proving too burdensome with the extra costs associated with the then-novel coronavirus pandemic. Still, franchisees reportedly pushed back, saying that while these ingredients did not bring in as much money as tuna, they still enjoyed a solid base of support among their customers.
As for the roast beef? That ranked No. 3. Was it the best sandwich in the world? No, but its a fairly standard meat choice — its what my dad always has me pick up at the deli. When I texted him asking him what he thought about Subways discontinuing his choice of sandwich meat, he didnt answer. He must have been too upset, just like fans of the sandwich chain:
Why did Subway discontinue roast beef?
Is Subway going to get roast beef back?
Did subway discontinue roast beef sandwiches?