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Demolition Man got it wrong.
March 8, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Subway has surpassed McDonald's as the world's largest restaurant chain.

The Wall Street Journal attributes some of the sandwich maker's success to their willingness to open outlets in unusual locations, including:

• A Goodwill store in South Carolina (as part of Goodwill's Food Service Training Program)
• A high school in Detroit (a/k/a Subway University, a program that provides students with college credit [video/autoplay])
• A church in Buffalo, New York (featured on an episode of "Undercover Boss")
• Within the U.S. Navel Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
• On a riverboat in Germany

The majority of Subway's 34,218 outlets are in the U.S., but the chain is poised for tremendous international growth, opening 1,000-2,000 restaurants per year, half overseas. The chain expects its international locations to outnumber its domestic outlets by 2020, and considers 8,000 of its current outlets to be in unusual locations.
posted by 2bucksplus (167 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
And it appears Subway is now wearing the pants in the restaurant industry.

That article ended on an odd misogynist note.
posted by geoff. at 8:48 AM on March 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


5 Rupee Foot Looooooooooooooooooong!!
posted by spicynuts at 8:49 AM on March 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


That article ended on an odd misogynist note.

I thought it might be referring to this.
posted by TedW at 8:50 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The nearest subway to me is in a frigging gas station.. The place is filthy. I've never understood how anyone could walk in and say in their head "Heck YEAH...this is a good place to buy food, food that has been sitting uncovered for god knows how long...!"

I have no pride in the intelligence of the people of the village I live in.
posted by tomswift at 8:50 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think they meant the 62-inch pants. Everybody wears pants now anyways.
posted by echo target at 8:50 AM on March 8, 2011


I'll say this for Subway: I recognize the vegetable matter on their sandwiches as organic. Not so much with McDonald's.

And Subway does pack the vegetables on their sandwiches, rather than the wimpy little handful of chopped lettuce and watery tomato slice you get with McD's.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've always been led to believe Subways success in expansion was its willingness to sell anyone a franchise anywhere. It's my understanding that you get no geographic protection when you buy a franchise. If someone wants to add a location across the street from yours, well then tough for you.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:52 AM on March 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Interesting. Subway is not really very big in Europe. Seen a few in Spain and like one in Finland. Plenty of them in the UK, but elsewhere they are outnumbered by McDonald's 100 to 1 (or it feels like they are).
posted by slimepuppy at 8:53 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Goodwill store in South Carolina [...]

And my favorite location, at Achewood Estates run by an alcoholic tiger.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:54 AM on March 8, 2011 [18 favorites]


Meanwhile, Yum! Brands is bigger than both combined:

McDonald's has a presence in 117 countries, while Subway cites franchises in just 95. What's more, neither restaurant can stand up to the giant Yum! Brands, owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, to name a few. The company has a surely enviable 38,000 franchises across the world.
posted by blucevalo at 8:54 AM on March 8, 2011


That's so weird, Subway has never seemed nearly as ubiquitous to me as McDonald's or the Yum! restaurants. I suppose it's because they don't have (many? any?) free-standing locations. Every one I've come across has been in a strip mall, or some other complex like an airport, gas station, or Wal-Mart. Funny how the places with their own buildings seem so much more preeminent in my mind.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:54 AM on March 8, 2011


Subway has surpassed McDonald's as the world's largest restaurant chain.

"Surpassed" is an odd word for such a dubious honor.
posted by DU at 8:55 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess having worst franchising practices really makes one grow.
posted by mooselini at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always have difficulty with the meaning of restaurant applied to places like these. Haven't been to McDonald's since grade 10 but I was at Subway two weeks ago.

I suppose it's because they don't have (many? any?) free-standing locations. Every one I've come across has been in a strip mall, or some other complex like an airport, gas station, or Wal-Mart.

In Toronto we have this but we also have them in free-standing locations scattered throughout the city on regular streets.
posted by juiceCake at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


My personal observation as a former Subway employee and sometimes customer is that there is a huge range of cleanliness between stores that is strongly correlated with how much business that store does.
posted by ghharr at 8:58 AM on March 8, 2011


It's damn near impossible to take the Greyhound bus coast-to-coast (in the U.S.) and not eat at least one Subway sandwich. Maybe two.
posted by mattbucher at 8:58 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


They are places you can buy (theoretically) freshly prepared food and sit to eat it. That pretty much seems like a restaurant to me.
posted by maryr at 8:59 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


By number of locations, or gross wieght of customers?
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:00 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The busier stores are generally cleaner is probably an important addition to what I said above.
posted by ghharr at 9:00 AM on March 8, 2011



I've always been led to believe Subways success in expansion was its willingness to sell anyone a franchise anywhere. It's my understanding that you get no geographic protection when you buy a franchise. If someone wants to add a location across the street from yours, well then tough for you.


Depends on who is selling the franchises; Subway uses regional licensed development agents to sell franchises, and many of them are more than glad to sell you a franchise with little regard for location. Also, a Subway franchise plus build-out costs are a whole order of magnitude cheaper than McDonald's.
posted by briank at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Within the U.S. Navel Base

Although they had to close that one when Jared lost all that weight.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:02 AM on March 8, 2011 [19 favorites]


I seem to get food poisoning every time I get a sandwich from them. And their meats are not red or pink; they're usually gray. I don't understand how people eat there.
posted by Camofrog at 9:02 AM on March 8, 2011


The nearest subway to me is in a frigging gas station.. The place is filthy. I've never understood how anyone could walk in and say in their head "Heck YEAH...this is a good place to buy food, food that has been sitting uncovered for god knows how long...!"

Yep. If given a choice I'd rather get obese from McDonald's products than E coli or salmonella or God knows what else from Subway. There's one near my work and I got food poisoning from the sandwich I ate there and I've never set foot in one since. Jared can go fuck himself.

Catchy jingles they have, though.
posted by blucevalo at 9:03 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pridgen opened the restaurant at his church in 2003 to provide job training to neighborhood residents, as well as a healthful food option.

The pastor of the church also passes out coupons for his restaurant during his church service. He also runs a land development agency. He is also a city councilmember.

He also has replaced a city councilmember who resigned after corruption allegations. But, being a pastor gives you a nice cover.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:04 AM on March 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I live in a "low population" census area, and there are no less than four Subway locations within walking distance from my apartment.
posted by ofthestrait at 9:05 AM on March 8, 2011


I seem to get food poisoning every time I get a sandwich from them.

I eat at the one by my house at least 2 times a week and never have a problem.
posted by empath at 9:06 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The last long-drive family trip we took, we relied on there being a Subway in damned near every truck stop on the interstate. We easily saw far more Subways than McD's along the way.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:07 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mangez Frais
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:08 AM on March 8, 2011


The second-to-last time I ate at a McDonald's, it was in a gas station somewhere in central Pennsylvania. Clean enough, all things considered, but also packed with people for whom this was the biggest thing they could do on a Friday night.

The last time I ate at a McDonald's, it was to try a McRib sandwich.

I looked at the menu board behind the counter while the clerks impatiently waited. The board had a backlit ad for the McRib.

All the photo retouching and food styling that McDonald's considerably marketing money could buy for the McRib glamour shot, and they still couldn't make it look like food. I ordered a plain burger and some fries instead.

I'll say this for Subway's products: They're mostly bread and cheese and iceberg lettuce, but at least they look like food.
posted by ardgedee at 9:10 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really dont like Subway, especially with having so many awesome sandwhich options nearby, but there is one across the street from me which is open 24/7 and so I end up getting food there rarely. Among like, 5-7 others within walking distance. I do notice there is a lot of variation in cleanliness and quality, especially regionally, much more than compared to other chains.
posted by floam at 9:11 AM on March 8, 2011


  1. "Five-Dollar-Footlong" is probably the best jingle in recent memory.
  2. Every Subway I've ever encountered, dozens and dozens of them, has been surrounded by a horrific funk. Maybe it's the bread, I don't know, but you can feel the stink from half a block away.
  3. Subway often seems to be a food-desert chain; it exists only where there are almost no other options. Make of this what you will.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:11 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like the idea, but I have had food poisoning from Subway twice. Never again.
posted by unSane at 9:12 AM on March 8, 2011


I've been told that, in the U.S., Subway franchises are packaged and targeted to foreign nationals to meet the requirements of immigration exceptions. Employing 10 people, (which can include accountants, trash pickup, consultants, advisers, advertising, purchasing, delivery, etc.) is part of the requirement.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:13 AM on March 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Subway's food really isn't bad, though of the chain sandwich shops I prefer Quiznos, Schlotzky's, or Firehouse.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2011


On Wednesday, nine bright yellow containers, each bearing an American flag, were hoisted to the tower's fifth floor. There, they'll be stacked on a hydraulically powered platform near two cranes at the building's core. The resulting three-level structure will house a kitchen with refrigeration, an eating area and storage and trash, with a compost unit to recycle waste.
posted by pinothefrog at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, kinda weird: so many people mention eating someplace and then getting food poisoning or sick from it. This never ever happens to me, and I eat all sorts of questionable stuff out of dirty food carts and stuff that's probably been in the fridge too long. Except exactly once when I was 6 with some seafood. What's the deal?
posted by floam at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, kinda weird: so many people mention eating someplace and then getting food poisoning or sick from it. This never ever happens to me, and I eat all sorts of questionable stuff out of dirty food carts and stuff that's probably been in the fridge too long. Except exactly once when I was 6 with some seafood. What's the deal?

Trained immune system is probably part of it.
posted by jaduncan at 9:16 AM on March 8, 2011


The real crime here, and really the quintessence of the tragic modern condition, is that I have to travel more than 60 miles to get to the nearest Chipotle.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:16 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Interesting. Subway is not really very big in Europe. I believe I saw 2 in Warsaw and I wasn't there very long.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:17 AM on March 8, 2011


I'm told that Subway has (by far) the lowest franchise licensing costs out of any fast food chain, which could go a long way toward explaining this trend. When you think about it too, it makes sense, since you need fewer people to staff a Subway.

Interesting. Subway is not really very big in Europe.

When I lived in the UK, it was the only fast food chain in my small village. Don't think I ever ate there though...

My one concern though: Did they ever manage to figure out what that smell is?
posted by schmod at 9:25 AM on March 8, 2011


Mangez Frais
Noooo... Now it'll be stuck in my head for the whole day!
posted by ddaavviidd at 9:26 AM on March 8, 2011


Yep. If given a choice I'd rather get obese from McDonald's products than E coli or salmonella or God knows what else from Subway. There's one near my work and I got food poisoning from the sandwich I ate there and I've never set foot in one since.

Moldy cheese. Swiss, not bleu. Nasty.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:29 AM on March 8, 2011


The only "smell" I've noticed emenating from a Subways is the smell of their bread. Not quite as yummy as fresh bread I've baked myself, sure, but it's their bread I've smelled.

And the only fast-food-franchise food poisoning I've ever had came from a chain of kebab places in Ireland. I have it on authority that the particular place I went to closed fairly soon afterward.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on March 8, 2011


The smell is definitely bread-related. I think it comes from the proofer where the bread rises prior to baking.
posted by ghharr at 9:34 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did they ever manage to figure out what that smell is?

It's the exact same smell the shitty pizzas in my HS cafeteria had.
posted by The Whelk at 9:39 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would LOVE to have my kids' high school cafeteria turned into a Subway. I used to substitute teach there, and the lunches were horrendous. They still are. I tried packing lunches for the kids when they were younger and encouraging them to pack lunches now (they're teens), but they want to buy lunch. This is understandable because they already have to carry backpacks so heavy they don't want to add on to them, but the pizza they get for lunch is only marginally better than cardboard.

There's a Hardee's and a Quizmo's nearby, but they don't allow the kids to go off campus unless they are seniors and drive. Not "can drive," but actually they are supposed to drive off campus in their cars or they won't let them out of the parking lot. I have no idea why other than maybe they worry they will get hit by a car walking across the street? And even if they could get off campus, lunch is 25 minutes. If you add on the full time for changing classes on both ends and assume they can still get to their next class on time, it becomes 33 minutes. To get in your car, drive, find a place to park, eat, and get back. They could run there faster.

So they have miserable cardboard pizza. Bring on Subway!
posted by misha at 9:40 AM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Man I have Subway 2-3 times a week. I'm currently rocking a buffalo chicken, with bacon. 2$ gets you like 10 strips of bacon, Either they don't understand the value of bacon, or I guess its not real bacon.

Yeah, there are awsome sandwich places near me, if I want to splurge I get a prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, balsamic and olive oil. Or better yet ham, salami & ham cappicola, mortadella, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, roasted peppers & italian dressing on fresh baked semolina bread (that was copy pasted from the deli's web site). But then I am in for a 15$ sandwich.

So many options and I haven't even started my sandwich blog yet.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:47 AM on March 8, 2011


I am always mystified by the amount of reviews on Yelp that claim a restaurant made them physically sick. Are you so sure that this restaurant's food caused it that you're willing to publicly shame them for it? Or did you get sick and then decide, "Oof, musta been that _____ that I didn't enjoy."

I've only ever had food poisoning once that I can recall, from a low-rent Ecuadorian place in my old neighborhood, so I guess I'm naturally skeptical.
posted by hermitosis at 9:49 AM on March 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


In Toronto, it seems like there must be 7-8 Subway places for every McDonalds.

Nutritionally, you're getting more vegetables (and fruit if you count tomatoes) than most fast food places, but their sandwiches can be high in sodium, but I doubt it's much better or worse than getting a chicken shawarma or bánh mì in locally.

I having a little trouble buying the food poisoning stories since the incubation period for that sort of illness can take between a few hours to a few days, so I don't see how you could possibly narrow it down to one specific food unless, possibly, you were eating with another person who got sick as well.

The only "smell" I've noticed emenating from a Subways is the smell of their bread.

I've read that the "fresh bread" smell was artificial to get people into their store, and they can turn it off if they want to.
posted by bobo123 at 9:49 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like the idea, but I have had food poisoning from Subway twice.

I'm sort of dumbfounded by all the comments about dirty Subways. I'm not a big fast-food person, but when I do, I usually pick Subway because they seem an order of magnitude less gross than any McD, BK, or Taco Bell option. In many years of occasionally eating Subway all over the country, I've never gotten food poisoning from one. (I should mention I usually get a veggie sub there, maybe a tuna.) That there are now so many Subways located in convenience stores at really obscure rural interstate exits has made finding a non-disgusting meal when on long car trips a much less harrowing experience.
posted by aught at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I having a little trouble buying the food poisoning stories since the incubation period for that sort of illness can take between a few hours to a few days, so I don't see how you could possibly narrow it down to one specific food unless, possibly, you were eating with another person who got sick as well.

Yeah. Like I mentioned above, I seem to never get foodsick, but on occasion, sure I become ill. But how could you know if it was even a food that caused it, let alone figure out which of the previous 10 meals is to blame? But in general I'm bad about recognizing those kinds of patterns.

Clearly, I need to keep small samples of all foods I eat frozen, and then systematically feed them to some sort of lemur I keep caged for these purposes whenever I get sick.
posted by floam at 9:55 AM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I stopped eating Subway when I watched a sandwich expert drag apron strings through the mayo and over the roast beef.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on March 8, 2011


My one concern though: Did they ever manage to figure out what that smell is?

Nobody will really want to know until Wikileaks releases the Subway cables. Then, and only then, will the masses feel compelled to act in unison.

I take the glorious franchise in Central Sq., Cambridge Massachusetts for example, a parlor of convenient access to lotteries, cigarettes and wild-weather bus shelter. Upon walking in, if you're not overcome and nauseated by the rancid, warm bologna smell, then by all means, proceed through the betting lounge to the counter and place your order. better you than me.

Personally, I never eat franchised fast food and haven't eaten from a Subway since I visited the one located inside a trailer on Camp Lejeune. Its offerings were slightly above those of the enlisted man's club. Thankfully, Boston has its fair, albeit decreasing share of sub shops to choose from outside of the franchise model.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:59 AM on March 8, 2011


I've read that the "fresh bread" smell was artificial to get people into their store, and they can turn it off if they want to.

Not true. They proof the bread (which they get in frozen form) in those big cabinets you see behind the counter, and then bake it on-site. The smell is from the proofers, which is why it smells more yeasty than bakery-like, and definitely not from some magic "smell machine".
posted by briank at 9:59 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I stopped eating Subway when I watched a sandwich expert drag apron strings through the mayo and over the roast beef.

Clearly, he was not a sandwich expert, but a sandiwch artist.
posted by maryr at 10:00 AM on March 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


Just walking by a Subway, I get a bit nauseated by that horrible yeasty smell coming out.
I dont know what it is but it is not the smell of fresh bread.
posted by vacapinta at 10:01 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Growing up in NJ, there was no shortage of awesome sub shops. Tastee sub shop in Edison stands out in my memory as great. And it was right by Curmudgeon, the tiny independent record store. (So many good memories right in that area.)

Now that I'm in New York, there's no shortage of great places to grab a hero. I don't see myself going to a Subway any time soon. They are seemingly everywhere, though. And they "construct" your sandwich right in front of you. I could see why those with slightly more discerning tastes would prefer it over McDonald's, which always has an "unknown" quality about it.

Also, the bread. It's like they sat around and were like: our bread's only so so — lets make it really smelly!
posted by defenestration at 10:03 AM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, kinda weird: so many people mention eating someplace and then getting food poisoning or sick from it. This never ever happens to me, and I eat all sorts of questionable stuff out of dirty food carts and stuff that's probably been in the fridge too long. Except exactly once when I was 6 with some seafood. What's the deal?

Trained immune system is probably part of it.


THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING.

Just walking by a Subway, I get a bit nauseated by that horrible yeasty smell coming out. I dont know what it is but it is not the smell of fresh bread.

It's the proofers. If you make your own dough, you can get that awful Subway™ smell by letting your bread rise too long.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:04 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Within the U.S. Navel Base

With or without oranges?
posted by mmrtnt at 10:07 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its strange how humans, who evolved over millions of years eating whatever god-awful things they could find including fermented shark embryos and eggs buried in piss, now get sick a the drop of a hat.

I also eat chicken and rice from street vendors so I suppose I am immune to Subway.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:07 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Subway is like a Taco Bell to me, in that all their food tastes exactly the same no matter what you order.
posted by wcfields at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2011


I love Subway.

Yes, I love a brand.

I am ... a Subway fanboy.

IS SUCH A THING POSSIBLE?!
posted by Avenger at 10:11 AM on March 8, 2011


The smell is from the proofers, which is why it smells more yeasty than bakery-like, and definitely not from some magic "smell machine".

In hindsight, I was thinking of this Ask Mefi about that bread smell. Someone suggested that they had two bread recipes, one that smells a lot and one that smell less.
posted by bobo123 at 10:12 AM on March 8, 2011


The smell is the proofers. Bakeries have a slight smell like that, but it's not nearly as strong because they don't import their dough. Pizza Hut smell the same way because of all the unbaked pizza dough. It's not a terrible smell, and certainly isn't from a smell machine or some sort of unsafe business practice.

I've eaten at many Subways across the nation for over ten years and never once gotten food poisoning. I usually get the spicey Italian though the steak and cheese is also a good one. There's a really good deli not too far from my house that I love, but they aren't open Sunday and sometimes I'm just not in the mood for one of their very delightful sandwiches.

I too have noticed the immigrants from India/Pakistan that own many of the franchises. It's weird to see the whole "family business" concept in Subway form so often.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:12 AM on March 8, 2011


I've been told that, in the U.S., Subway franchises are packaged and targeted to foreign nationals to meet the requirements of immigration exceptions. Employing 10 people, (which can include accountants, trash pickup, consultants, advisers, advertising, purchasing, delivery, etc.) is part of the requirement.

That might might explain why they're so popular in the cities I've been in. Both Chicago and Seattle seem to have a LOT of subways. Near my current area there are about four within a five block radius. Only one McDonalds in the same area.

That there are now so many Subways located in convenience stores at really obscure rural interstate exits has made finding a non-disgusting meal when on long car trips a much less harrowing experience.

Yeah, as a pescetarian, subway is great for longer car trips.

I actually like the bread smell. Their flavor scientists really optimized the smell and delivery of it to the surrounding area. You know when you're near a Subway.

I've always assumed the breads are full of HFCS. Looking at their nutrition page, it looks like several of them are, including the supposedly "healthier" 9-grain wheat one. But the white one isn't. Further proof that the whole grain marketing scam is just that.
posted by formless at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you don't like the smell of Subway's bread, do not ever eat it in your car. It will smell like a sandwich farted in there for a week at least.
posted by orme at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


When it comes to restaurants, I go all reverse-Chinese-finger-trap (Think about it. On second thought, don't) with very little provocation, but I've never had a problem at Subway.

It's worth noting that Subway is really important for vegetarians doing any kind of highway travel in North America. It's about the only place you're liable to find at most rest stops where you can get a significant serving of vegetables without a pile of meat thrown in to make it "appetizing." Furthermore, do you really want someone riding shotgun with you if the only thing he or she was able to get for lunch was a Taco Bell seven-layer burrito?

And I don't mind the yeast-funk. It's like what you would smell if you tasked a group of extraterrestrials with recreating the scent of a bakery based only on a written description.
posted by wreckingball at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Just walking by a Subway, I get a bit nauseated by that horrible yeasty smell coming out. I dont know what it is but it is not the smell of fresh bread.

As I've gotten older I've had to stop going to a lot of fast food restaurants because eating the food there makes me feel bloated and sad. First it was McDonalds. Then Tim Horton's. Then chain store* pizza. A couple of months ago Subway, which I guess I always thought of as the relatively "healthy" option (even though I briefly worked at one 15 years ago), crossed that line. I think it's the "bread."

* now I live in fear of the day good pizza makes me feel like crap
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2011


I'll believe Subway is bigger when economists invent a Jared Index to replace the BMI.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's worth noting that Subway is really important for vegetarians doing any kind of highway travel in North America. It's about the only place you're liable to find at most rest stops where you can get a significant serving of vegetables without a pile of meat thrown in to make it "appetizing.

Hell, even as a group of meat eaters, my family's road trip generally featured a lot of stops at Subway or Blimpie* just to make them a little healthier.

*For reasons lost to the sands of time, we called Blimpie "Blumpie" which is retrospectively hilarious(nsfw).
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I stopped eating Subway when I watched a sandwich expert drag apron strings through the mayo and over the roast beef.

Unless they've changed the job title since my day, it's sandwich "artist." So you see, some artists use paint, others sculpt...and some work with mayonnaise and roast beef.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:20 AM on March 8, 2011


Subway started in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Which means at least one decent thing came out of that city in the last 50 or so years.
posted by zippy at 10:25 AM on March 8, 2011


at least one decent thing came out of that city in the last 50 or so years.

So, what was it?

posted by klue at 10:30 AM on March 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Were people actually demanding that many Subways, or is this something they just sort of decided to do on their own?
posted by Naberius at 10:35 AM on March 8, 2011


So, what was it?

OHH sick burn.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:35 AM on March 8, 2011


Subway smells like school cafeteria, which I believe is the smell of bologna. Bologna smells like what's in it, and if you have to ask, you don't want to know.
posted by theora55 at 10:38 AM on March 8, 2011


> it looks like several of them are, including the supposedly "healthier" 9-grain wheat one. But the white one isn't. Further proof that the whole grain marketing scam is just that.

Not really. Those breads have added HCFS to sweeten them, but that doesn't mean that overall you're not getting a better bread than the enriched white bread. White bread made from fine sifted, hulled flour naturally turns to glucose soon after it hits your saliva covered tongue. I don't like adding lots of sweetener to breads but it's a bit of equivocation to say that a whole grain bread with added HCFS is somehow less healthy than white bread without.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bologna smells like what's in it

Hey, has anyone seen Oscar Meyer recently?
posted by zippy at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2011


> Were people actually demanding that many Subways, or is this something they just sort of decided to do on their own?

I think the explosion of Subway outlets can be more attributed to unimaginative would-be entrepreneurs that want to buy into a pre-fab franchise.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:41 AM on March 8, 2011


> Interesting. Subway is not really very big in Europe.

When I was in Paris last summer I had one of the best sandwiches of my life - chicken curry salad on a baguette - and a Coke for the equivalent of eight bucks. If I had neighbourhood options like that available I wouldn't even think about eating at Subway.

That still doesn't explain why anyone in France would want to eat at McDonalds, though.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2011


Anecdata: on my commute I walk past two Subways and no McDonaldses.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:50 AM on March 8, 2011


Apparently they use a bread recipe which is designed to smell a lot, and they'll stop if you just ask nicely.
posted by Who_Am_I at 10:52 AM on March 8, 2011


Those breads have added HCFS to sweeten them

That explains a lot for me. I find Subway sandwiches incredibly sweet-tasting. Like, moreso than a savoury sandwich should. I avoid Subway now for that very reason. Now I know why!
Thanks, Burhanistan!
posted by LN at 10:53 AM on March 8, 2011


That still doesn't explain why anyone in France would want to eat at McDonalds, though.


Royale with cheese!
posted by Gelatin at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


If there's not enough demand for a Subway in a given location, it will go out of business. So if one's been open for a few years, I can say with some certainty that, yeah, there's demand for it. Economics is great once you get to know it!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2011


at least one decent thing came out of that city in the last 50 or so years.

So, what was it?


Neither this, nor this.
posted by zippy at 10:57 AM on March 8, 2011


Subway is better pretend food than a lot of other fast food but that's about all the credit I'd give it. It's not deep fried and doesn't contain insane amounts of sugar (or even pretend sugar) and the flavor is generally bland and inoffensive (unless of course you're getting food poisoning there). Given that, my guess is that they are popular because they are ubiquitous and cheap. That's not a lot to recommend a restaurant on. It may make you sick but probably won't kill you and it's cheap. America, land of the franchise, home of the chain.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:59 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


When in Subway, one should purchase a wrap. It is considerably more bearable.
posted by jaduncan at 11:02 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recently had a veggie sandwich at a Subway. As the guy in front of me directed the construction of his sandwich, I saw the employee mistakenly add green peppers right on top of the meat, then, when he realized his mistake, make as if to start throwing them back into the bin from whence they came. The guy stopped him and told him not to bother taking them off, but I'm sure that kind of thing happens all the time. I really don't doubt that it also happens all the time at McDonald's or Jersey Mike's or any number of other food service places that employ a lot of young and uneducated people who are there because they needed entry level jobs. Subway just gets more blame for it because their mistakes are right there in plain view. I don't make a habit of eating there when there are other options available, but I'm not any more disgusted by it than I am by other restaurants. I tend to assume the worst in terms of food handling practices, but fortunately I have an iron stomach and have never had significant food poisoning issues despite eating at some very dodgy places.
posted by contraption at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2011


If you make your own dough, you can get that awful Subway™ smell by letting your bread rise too long.

I bake bread, I brew beer; I know from yeast funk. The Subway stink is way beyond any unpleasant smells my kitchen has produced. (Which is not to say that it's not the bread, because it certainly is, but man, it's bad.)
posted by uncleozzy at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2011


I decided to look at my local fast food numbers.

In all of the City of Portland, not counting others in the metro area: Anyway the point is yeah there are a lot of Subways.

* Their website's store locator doesn't let you see results for more than 50 locations. There are literally 182 "Subway" businesses listed on the cities business license list, but many are duplicates, and I think some are closed. I found a few couple year old big store lists with the Google and using the best logic I can 68 is pretty darn close.
posted by floam at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2011


"Five-Dollar-Footlong" is probably the best jingle in recent memory.

And it is "best" both by the traditional standards of advertising AND by the "easiest for me to make dirty parodies of every time we hear it" standards that are important to the two-legged folk living in my apartment.

(Yes, the phrase "Same as in town" has been used; I won't tell you what it was rhymed with.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in Paris last summer I had one of the best sandwiches of my life - chicken curry salad on a baguette - and a Coke for the equivalent of eight bucks.

It probably would have been six bucks if you'd ordered wine instead of Coke. When I was in France last year, many places offered a glass of wine for less than they charged for soft drinks, and it was decent stuff, too.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:19 AM on March 8, 2011


I bake bread, I brew beer; I know from yeast funk. The Subway stink is way beyond any unpleasant smells my kitchen has produced.

Can't be worse than primary fermenter sludge.
posted by goethean at 11:26 AM on March 8, 2011


And it appears Subway is now wearing the pants in the restaurant industry
That article ended on an odd misogynist note.


The word you're looking for is "sexist". It's a good, descriptive, useful word.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:28 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Subway's genius is that it is the minimalist restaurant. No fryers. No hood. I've never been in the back of one, but I'd be surprised if they had anything beyond the health-department-mandated three-compartment sink and a freezer. Do you even need gas to run a Subway, or is it all electric? And everything comes off the truck. Zero on-site cooking (well, except for the bread. Those tall glass-fronted EZ-Bake bread ovens on wheels are sorta genius, too.). They're cheap to build out, cheap to run, and in the right location, probably hugely profitable.

There's a Subway by the grocery store I frequent. Right next door to the Subway, as in sharing a wall, is a family-run hot dog place. The Subway has all sorts of colorful signs up advertising meal deals and new sandwiches and all. Tony's Hot Dogs And Burgers has signs made of paper plates scrawled with Sharpies scotch-taped to the front window.

I eat at Tony's because his cheeseburgers are large and tasty and he knows that I want mine sliced in half, no tomato, no mayo. And I'm not alone -- at lunch time there's a line out the door at Tony's. I think the Subway stays in business because they get a constant trickle of business and they're open late.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:29 AM on March 8, 2011


I've never understood how anyone could walk in and say in their head "Heck YEAH...this is a good place to buy food, food that has been sitting uncovered for god knows how long...!"

You mean sitting uncovered in front of you, instead of sitting uncovered in the kitchen like every other place?
posted by naju at 11:31 AM on March 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I haven't been able to eat Subway sandwiches ever since a friend of mine pointed out that they uniformly taste as though they were assembled on the freshly-Lysoled counter of a bathroom sink.
posted by saladin at 11:47 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I stopped eating Subway when I watched a sandwich expert drag apron strings through the mayo and over the roast beef.

I suggest you never take a peek behind the scenes at your favorite fine-dining establishment, then.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:49 AM on March 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


> I suggest you never take a peek behind the scenes at your favorite fine-dining establishment, then.

Yes, pardon my indelicacy, but most anytime you see a chef or kitchen worker with foodstains on his apron, it's because his/her gut hangs over the prep table and brushes up against the food.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:53 AM on March 8, 2011


There are lots of better alternatives to Subway if you live in NYC or Paris or Seattle*. But out here in the boondocks, it's Subway vs. Burger King / McDonalds vs. the seriously questionable Chinese buffet. Thank god for Subway.


* I would kill for a Seattle-style Teriyaki shop where I now reside
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:05 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Subway falls into the "at least you know what you're going to get" category for me. A meatball sub in Boston is the same as the meatball sub in New York. When I travel by train, I'll usually take along a sub with me if there's a Subway at the station. You know what you're going to get.
posted by Spatch at 12:08 PM on March 8, 2011


Its strange how humans, who evolved over millions of years eating whatever god-awful things they could find including fermented shark embryos and eggs buried in piss, now get sick a the drop of a hat.

I not so sure getting sick at the drop of a hat is a "now" thing, but a thing that has happened for quite some time, or, since the beginning. I'd hazard a guess that mass production has something to do with increased food poisoning (if it is actually increased) and I'd also hazard a guess that lots of people died for years and years from sicknesses that we no longer see much of or that we can respond better to these days.

And is it millions of years rather than 30 - 50 thousand years now?
posted by juiceCake at 12:10 PM on March 8, 2011


This is when I get to post this?
posted by mumimor at 12:16 PM on March 8, 2011


qxntpqbbbqxl, I live on an island near Seattle and we don't have teriyaki here--worst thing about the place. They could keep a franchise open just with my patronage.
posted by maxwelton at 12:18 PM on March 8, 2011


"Hey, has anyone seen Oscar Meyer recently?"

no, but I've seen his wiener.

I hate myself for doing that... really... but i would do it again.
posted by tomswift at 12:21 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


> It's worth noting that Subway is really important for vegetarians doing any kind of highway travel in North America.
> It's about the only place you're liable to find at most rest stops where you can get a significant serving of
> vegetables without a pile of meat thrown in to make it "appetizing."

It's the only chain sandwich joint I can think of that will actually sell you a meatless sandwich, and they will also let you leave out the dread iceberg lettuce. I get their veggie sandwich often (not the kind with that slab of the vegetarian equivalent of mystery meat, just the fresh or at least freshish chopped veggies, a little hot mustard, pepper, grated parmesan, on plain wheat bread.) Even considering the sorry bread, which manages to be insubstantial and leathery at the same time, it's the best fast-food choice I know when fast food is unavoidable. It has never made me sick but my series of tubes is pretty robust, ymmv.
posted by jfuller at 12:28 PM on March 8, 2011


In the tiny college town of Statesboro, GA, there are no less than five Subway stores:
One in the new shopping area (moved from an old plaza),
One across the street from the campus
One behind the campus
One further along that same road
One off on the outskirts
I think there is one in the Wal-Mart there as well.

Here in Brunswick, GA, I count five off the top of my head.

I'll say this for them: all their stores seem to have free Wi-Fi. Not that AT&T setup McDonalds has either, which requires clicking through two, sometimes obnoxiously slow, sign-in pages.

In these same towns, I count respectively 2 and 3 Starbucks stores. McDonalds counts are also 2 and 3.
posted by JHarris at 12:29 PM on March 8, 2011


* I would kill for a Seattle-style Teriyaki shop where I now reside

If I could send one your way, I would. In fact, I'd send them all your way, with the sauces that seem close to a savory sugar syrup, so much salt that you can't stop being thirsty for the rest of the day, a "salad" that is a few pieces of iceberg lettuce, and a couple strips of shaved carrot, and generally sub-par food. The popularity of them here still puzzles me to no end.

I just know if they were all gone, the vacuum created might offer the opportunity for something good to fill their place. Like perhaps one of those Italian Beef places that are all over in Chicago, and I miss so badly...
posted by evilangela at 12:38 PM on March 8, 2011


I closed that Time window without reading it because the site tried to open at least five pop up windows in my browser. The two sentences I got in the WSJ are saying that Subway is the largest in terms of number of locations, not in terms of total sales. That's not much of an accomplishment, especially if it comes from opening multiple locations near each other that drive the sales down at each one.
posted by massysett at 12:41 PM on March 8, 2011


Interesting that so many others have mentioned the "Subway Smell". My husband and I both cannot stand the smell of Subway; even a waft as we walk by makes us feel ill. I can't even think of eating a Subway sandwich, the very idea makes me queasy.

When we mention "Subway Smell" to friends, whether they like the food or not, invariably they identify with the stink issue. "I know exactly what you mean!" is the most common response; I've never encountered someone that didn't think Subway had a unique and pervasive aroma.

Worse, it's like cigarette smoke. Just as if you've been hanging out with someone smoking and the cigarette smoke permeates your clothes, if you spend enough time in or around a Subway (for whatever unfathomable reason) it takes at least one good washing to get that horrid stench out. :(

I swear, if our world was animated, Subway would have a Pig-Pen-like cloud of foulness surrounding it.
posted by xedrik at 12:47 PM on March 8, 2011


Everyday on my way to work I drive past a mostly abandoned strip mall that looks like it's been in decline for years. I think it was probably built to accommodate travelers riding the train lines that run nearby. The train stop was diverted a long time ago and with it went the businesses. Only one remains open now. It's a Subway.
posted by fishmasta at 12:55 PM on March 8, 2011


The two sentences I got in the WSJ are saying that Subway is the largest in terms of number of locations, not in terms of total sales. That's not much of an accomplishment, especially if it comes from opening multiple locations near each other that drive the sales down at each one.

Or more to the point, letting multiple franchisees open up their shops on one another's doorsteps. Can anyone who has worked for them let us know if they have a zone of exclusivity for each franchise? The things seem to be thick on the ground in many cities (as seen above) but I am not sure why a franchisee would cast his lot in with them if a year from now another Subway might open up across the street.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:04 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, could I please get a...1 footlong club on herb and cheese please?
Q.
Cheddar, thanks.
Q.
Uh, fresh is fine.
Q.
Yeah, cheddar.2
Q.
Heh - I know the feeling. Yeah, not toasted.
Q.
Uh, can I get lettuce, onion, gherkins3, capsicum and jalapeno?
Q.4
Could I get another handful of lettuce, please?5 Err, a little bit more, thanks.
Q.
And I'll get sweet onion and... ranch, thanks.
Q.
...and ranch.
Q.
Yep.
Q.
No thanks.
Q.
No thanks.
Q.
Na.6
Q.
No thanks.
Q.
Thanks, have a good one.


1. Pause for a beat even though I have the exact same sub every day - actually, I've moved to ham now because it's cheaper and tastes almost exactly the same, but when the price goes back up I'll move back to the club.
2. You just asked me that.
3. Pickles.
4. "Sauces?"
5. They never give you enough lettuce. The "Sauces?" "Can I get some more lettuce?" *does lettuce* "Sauces?" "A bit more than that please" loop continues for another few iterations sometimes.
6. I've ordered the exact same thing 4 times a week for months now - I'm already fucking holding a drink from the fridge, of course I don't want a drink.

posted by doublehappy at 1:11 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Pizza Sub is one of mankind's great inventions.

Always ate at Blimpie or a another grinder chain in the States but there are a bunch in Sydney, including one across from my favorite rock and roll venue. Feels more like 'real food' than McDonalds.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:13 PM on March 8, 2011


The things seem to be thick on the ground in many cities (as seen above) but I am not sure why a franchisee would cast his lot in with them if a year from now another Subway might open up across the street.

It can work in busy areas: Caltex across the road from Caltex in Auckland. In Wellington there are three Subways within about 100m of each other in the CBD and they're always packed.
posted by doublehappy at 1:14 PM on March 8, 2011


Christ the food hipsterism in this thread is just ridiculous "Subway makes me sick!" Seriously? Maybe the problem here is you. I've been to subway but I haven't gone in a while, as I find their sandwiches kind of flat. I like the firmer bread at Jimmy John's. Although actually, I don't think I've bought a sub in years as I started keeping sandwich ingredients at home, and want something cooked if I go out.
All the photo retouching and food styling that McDonald's considerably marketing money could buy for the McRib glamour shot, and they still couldn't make it look like food. I ordered a plain burger and some fries instead.
It's a chunk of meat covered in sauce. It's pretty good, although very tangy.
Every Subway I've ever encountered, dozens and dozens of them, has been surrounded by a horrific funk. Maybe it's the bread, I don't know, but you can feel the stink from half a block away.
I'm a little confused about what you're talking about: Have you ever-smelled fresh bread? That's the only smell that comes to mind from subway, where they do produce their own bread each day.
posted by delmoi at 1:24 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love Subway, that is all.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like other sandwich places better; Togo's was great, especially when they had one at my college: turkey and bacon on wheat, mustard, no mayonnaise. No drink, no chips, just carry the sandwich upstairs to the on-campus pub and wash it down with a hefeweizen. Also great: the provolone and pickled red pepper, by far the best vegetarian sandwich ever made available by a fast food chain. Alas, by junior year they'd ditched the Togo's in the dining commons and replaced it with a Subway, and not long after Togo's ditched the provolone and pepper sandwich altogether.

Now I eat at Subway, because it's Jena!!!'s favorite sandwich joint.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:46 PM on March 8, 2011


I've only ever gotten food poisoning twice in my life. I've eaten raw cookie dough, raw eggs, raw chicken, came out fine the other side. I attribute this to my childhood; I can't remember this but apparently I used to eat so much dirt that my parents gave me a bowl and spoon to play with outside so I wouldn't get my clothes so messy as I consumed enormous amounts of dirt.

First time I got food poisoning I can't really remember well either. I was quite young and it had something to do with corn, so to this day I hate corn.

Second time, well I was sitting in my university dorm room one evening and I was kind of bored and realised I had a loaf of bread one month past its expiry date. Took a quick glance at it. No obvious discolouration. I ate two slices and thought I was in the clear until, half an hour later, the most extraordinary and total experience of pain overwhelmed my stomach. It was like I had carefully smashed and then ground up a glass jar and swallowed it. It passed after an hour but kids - don't do that.

Does this count as a thread derail? I like Subway...but after those stories do you really want to take culinary advice from me?
posted by asymptotic at 2:06 PM on March 8, 2011


@asymptoic You must really hate month-old corn bread. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:06 PM on March 8, 2011


It's hard not to like DeLuca, at least at first. His IQ is so high that he's a member of Mensa.

That and fifty-cents will buy you a cup of coffee... if you didn't only drink French Pressed Jamaican Blue Mountain with organic steamed milk from grass fed dairy cows out of Meissen demitasse cups because of your refined aesthetic sensibilities.

I'm not sure if Behar was brilliant or idiotic here.

That funky bread smell is just about unbearable. Subway is almost the last place I'll eat if given another choice.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:41 PM on March 8, 2011


@asymptoic You must really hate month-old corn bread. ;)
Month-old corn bread is more properly called corn smut bread.
You can sell it to foodies for $10 a half-pan.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:47 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Subway has surpassed McDonald's as the world's largest restaurant chain.

If we didn't heed Keith Olbermann's warning, we deserve what we get.

They never give you enough lettuce.

Your profile doesn't include a photo, doublehappy, so I can't verify you're not some sort of rabbit or goat. Every Subway I've ever been to needs to add "Bucket o' Lettuce &" to the name of each sub.
posted by Rykey at 3:06 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I worked at Subway we were specifically told to go heavy on the lettuce because that way there's less room for the other, more expensive veggies.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2011


More like The Sandwich Cheat.
posted by contraption at 3:44 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Have you ever-smelled fresh bread? That's the only smell that comes to mind from subway, where they do produce their own bread each day.

You're right, Subway is wholesome and delicious and smells like fresh-picked roses and sunshine and doesn't cast a square-mile miasma of foot and ass. My mistake.
posted by uncleozzy at 3:52 PM on March 8, 2011


When I worked at Subway we were specifically told to go heavy on the lettuce because that way there's less room for the other, more expensive veggies.

Yeah, that's why I always skip the lettuce. Also the meat, for completely different reasons. Note that bacon totally does not count as meat.
posted by Go Banana at 3:55 PM on March 8, 2011


For those who were wondering "Can I get food poisoning in restaurants?"... Yup, even in posh ones.

[...] far from taking “voluntary” action at the first sign of trouble, the restaurant waited six weeks before notifying the authorities that anything was amiss. The Fat Duck went on serving its £130-a-head tasting menu, including sewage-contaminated oysters, fully aware that there was a very strong possibility of diners remembering their meals at the world’s second-best restaurant for all the wrong reasons – as they now do.
posted by yoHighness at 4:10 PM on March 8, 2011


Your favorite method of not starving at your desk five times a week sucks.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:13 PM on March 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


When I worked at Subway we were specifically told to go heavy on the lettuce

Just curious, but did they also tell you -- after you'd laid down the cheese triangles point-to-point long-wise, leaving half the sandwich surface naked -- to look up with a pathetic hang-dog expression, then back down at the half-covered sandwich, and then slump your shoulders in despair while looking back up pleadingly, until the customer upgraded to the double cheese option?
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:17 PM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Call me a heathen, but I liked the cheese better the old way. The overlap of triangles more than made up for the gaps. Also, switch back to the top-cut! (Actually moot, since I just discovered their flatbread.)

Anecdata: Connecting the two major Saskatchewan cities of Regina and Saskatoon is Highway 11, dotted with small farming communities. You won't find a single McDonald's along the way. But off the top of my head, there are now Subways in Lumsden, Chamberlain, Davidson, and Dundurn. Three of those are in gas stations, if I recall correctly. (Davidson also has an A&W. Interesting fact about Canada is that certain American chains like McDonald's were a bit slow to invade, while others raced up here in the 50s. So KFC, A&W, and Dairy Queen have had a small town hegemony that Subway is really starting to crack now.)
posted by evilcolonel at 4:31 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Spatch: Subway falls into the "at least you know what you're going to get" category for me. A meatball sub in Boston is the same as the meatball sub in New York.

Sigh. I hate knowing what I'm going to get. I have to eat lunch every friggin' day. I want my meal to remind me that life's not a routine chore. Unfortunately It seems I'm in the minority, judging by the statistics.

My principle complaint with Subway is that they don't offer *one* spicy sandwhich topping - Dijon mustard, Horseradish, tobasco - it's all too "challenging" for their clientelle. Don't get me started on their (barely flavoured mayo) "chipotle". That said, subway is a long shot more food-like than most fast food.
posted by Popular Ethics at 4:32 PM on March 8, 2011


I actually find Subway to be a more depressing place than McDonalds. Everything basically does taste the same, and unlike McDonalds, Burger King, etc., where there's at least some items that are both tasty and not disgusting (if still totally unhealthy) -- milkshakes, fries, whatever -- there really isn't a single thing on the Subway menu that ever strikes me as worth eating for any reason other than simply to get full for about 45 minutes.
posted by decoherence at 4:37 PM on March 8, 2011


Subway has something similar to Frank's Red Hot for their "Buffalo chicken" sauce, or at least they do in Canada. It's spicy to me but I'm a wimp with hot sauce.

There also used to be a kinda-horseradishy horseradish sauce, which was white. Now it's kind of pink and doesn't really taste like horseradish. (It's been years since I ordered it so my info could be out of date).
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:53 PM on March 8, 2011


My principle complaint with Subway is that they don't offer *one* spicy sandwhich topping - Dijon mustard, Horseradish, tobasco - it's all too "challenging" for their clientell

They have crushed red peppers, yellow peppers and jalapeños.
posted by empath at 4:55 PM on March 8, 2011


Camofrog: "I seem to get food poisoning every time I get a sandwich from them. And their meats are not red or pink; they're usually gray.

If the meat was gray, why'd ya eat it? That pretty much explains the food poisoning.

"I don't understand how people eat there."

Neither do we.
posted by bwg at 5:05 PM on March 8, 2011


I saw the employee mistakenly add green peppers right on top of the meat

This is a Thing now? What is this thing? I do not understand it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:07 PM on March 8, 2011


They have crushed red peppers, yellow peppers and jalapeños.

I've never seen crushed red peppers or jalapeños, and their yellow peppers are of the "sweeter than spicy" variety. I suppose I should give credit* for at least having some options to customize my food taste more than just ketchup / mustard / relish. I still think it's criminal to offer a roast beef sandwich without real horseradish.

*The Pita Pit, of course, deserving the most credit for choice in fast food toppings
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:12 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing is the green peppers go back in their tub, now with a dressing of meat juice. Not only will it not be vegetarian; it will also be courting cross-contamination.
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:17 PM on March 8, 2011


> Just curious, but did they also tell you -- after you'd laid down the cheese triangles point-to-point long-wise, leaving half the sandwich surface naked -- to look up with a pathetic hang-dog expression, then back down at the half-covered sandwich, and then slump your shoulders in despair while looking back up pleadingly, until the customer upgraded to the double cheese option?

No. But there were mandated amounts of each vegetable topping we were supposed to put on each sub (eg. 2 pieces of green pepper per six inches of sub). We were allowed to put more on if people asked, but if you didn't say anything that was what you got.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:22 PM on March 8, 2011


On a recent bike tour we stopped in Ebro, Florida (population 269) to hide from the drenching rain. Seeing no eateries besides a gas station Subway counter, we rolled up to the dog track and asked a guy what there was nearby. "There's this great little place up the road--" he said, "they can make you anything. You want eggs? They'll make you eggs. It's called Subway."

Being in a moment of need, I had one of my better experiences with the chain. We just stuck to the official menu, but the store did oblige us by letting us use the ice cream freezers as makeshift tables.
posted by domnit at 5:27 PM on March 8, 2011


The thing is the green peppers go back in their tub, now with a dressing of meat juice. Not only will it not be vegetarian; it will also be courting cross-contamination.

Ah, I see. I thought there was some new DON'T PUT GREEN PEPPERS ON MEAT OR BAD THINGS HAPPEN in play there.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:38 PM on March 8, 2011


I tend not to like cold-cut sandwiches. just for whatever reason, I don't like them. so the idea of Subway never appealed much to me.

my first year at college, I lived in the biggest dorm building on campus. it was, however, not terribly close to the student union building, for some strange reason. in the student union building, they had a better cafeteria and a McDonald's. and in the lobby of our dorm, which was a 26 story apartment building really, there was a Subway. now, we did have a cafeteria, but it closed early. the Subway did not. and the Subway accepted your meal card as payment. since this was an upper midwest college, most of the school year it was just stupid cold outside. so there was only so many times a week, both for financial reasons and out of self-preservation, that you could order Papa John's or Domino's. and I don't think a day went by that first (and not coincidentally, last) year at college that I also was not horribly stoned. so when you're ripped out of your mind, in possession of a magic card that buys food without crippling your ability to buy more weed, and also wanting to avoid brutal cold.. well a 5 minute elevator round trip kinda makes the decision easy.

so i ate a lot of Subway. and since I really didn't like cold sandwiches (or that horrible meatball disaster), I only had two real choices: the chicken breast or the steak and cheese. most of the time I'd do the chicken, since I would usually get a footlong and put half in the fridge and microwave it later. and probably at least half the time i ate it, i would bite into the off-white slab of rubber that certainly wasn't ever a living animal, and i'd get a solid nugget of.. something. and the steak and cheese always had a weird aftertaste to me. and at least the chicken sandwich would microwave better later on.

In the 15 years since I lived in that building, I've not been inside another Subway.

i compare this to a friend of mind who worked at a Burger King in HS. he will never eat at another BK in his life ever, because of the things that he saw there. but he'll eat at any other fast food chain. now, I'm not under any impression that McDonald's (or whatever) food is any less questionable, but in my lifetime I will never eat Subway again.
posted by ninjew at 5:51 PM on March 8, 2011


The thing is the green peppers go back in their tub, now with a dressing of meat juice. Not only will it not be vegetarian

What you don't know... can lead to a surprisingly tasty guilt-free sandwich.
posted by floam at 5:52 PM on March 8, 2011


Why would they take green peppers off someone's sandwich and put them back in the tub?
posted by decoherence at 5:56 PM on March 8, 2011


My bro-in-law is a big shot at McD's. From what he tells me, it's really, really, really hard for even the child of a successful operator (franchisee) to get approved for a new franchise here in SoCal. Even if you have the ridiculous startup capital required, it's still hard. Also, McD figures out where the store is going to be built and then maybe they'll let you buy the franchise and put in where they tell you to.

Yet, Subway would probably let two different guys build Subways next door to each other. I see them in the worst areas imaginable where there seems to no chance they could stay in business. Then, a month later, another Subway opens across the street.

So, Subway having more stores doesn't mean much.
posted by sideshow at 5:57 PM on March 8, 2011


I'm sure the meat eaters will sneer, but when you've been a veggo for a while anything with meat bits or meat juice on it starts to get a kind of "germs" vibe to it. I imagine it's a bit like dairy on meat for Orthodox Jews or beef for Hindus.

Next time you're at a barbie, watch the expression on the face of the veggoes as their tofu / bean creation gets thrown in with all the sizzling animal protein.

It also doesn't really taste better (unless you're a recent convert of course), the taste and smell of meat become rather unpleasant if you haven't eaten them for years.

The rather obvious reasons why they put the peppers back is that they cost money and that the bin is further away and likely behind them.
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:01 PM on March 8, 2011


Get the bacon, egg and cheese on flatbread with the chipotle sauce. Good breakfast.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:03 PM on March 8, 2011


I'm not under any impression that McDonald's (or whatever) food is any less questionable [than Burger King]

I can't necessarily comapre it to Subway, but I can tell you than in my home town, the kids that McDonald's didn't hire, that was who staffed Burger King. I remember some very slow, smelly classmates working at our BK.
posted by maryr at 6:22 PM on March 8, 2011


I hate the term 'flatbread.' and 'wrap,' as well.
posted by jonmc at 6:25 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just ate at the first Subway outlet in Vietnam. Nice variation from usual Saigon food, but they were meager with the toppings and shorted my change. And I can't stop thinking that I could have bought eight bánh mì for the same price as one 6" sandwich. Or two steak dinners with french fries, salad and beer. Or ten pieces of sushi with miso soup, chawanmushi and hiyayakko.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 6:34 PM on March 8, 2011


I could have bought eight bánh mì for the same price as one 6" sandwich. Or two steak dinners with french fries, salad and beer. Or ten pieces of sushi with miso soup, chawanmushi and hiyayakko.

...and Subway is a nice variation from that?!
posted by Rykey at 6:58 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Five-Dollar-Footlong" is probably the best jingle in recent memory.

Meh. They didn't work the brand into it at all. I honestly thought it was a Quiznos jingle. Maybe Mr Sub.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:07 PM on March 8, 2011


The rather obvious reasons why they put the peppers back is that they cost money and that the bin is further away and likely behind them.

And they'll get shut down by the Health Department if they're caught, so when they do make mistakes, they are supposed to throw the food away. Doesn't mean they always do, of course. And it's wasteful. But hey, no 'meat juice' on the veggies, so that's good.

I'm really amazed by how many people came in here just to say how much they hate Subway and fast food and food chains. I had no idea there was such rampant food snobbery. No, actually, I did have some idea. I've noticed that the West Coast seems to hate chains with a passion. I mean, in Seattle, I've met people who consider chains total sellouts and only patronize the little individual restaurants, even though some of them are just dives with questionable sanitation themselves. I don't know why this is.

I live in an area where you mostly have chain restaurants, and they are consistent. I don't have a problem with that. I know what I'm going to get. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a Panera sandwich or even, occasionally, McDonald's fries. We also have some family-run restaurants, mostly pizza joints, and they're good, too. There's room for both.
posted by misha at 10:02 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a Subway 2 blocks from my house, in the same shopping center as my bank, pharmacy, dry cleaners, and a Publix grocery store, as well as a non-chain family Italian place with great lasagna, and a decent bar. Across the street, there's a Firehouse subs, an Outback Steakhouse, a coal-fired pizza place that's owned by Germans and serves a full German menu, including imported German beers, and a couple of coffee places, including a damned Star*ucks. And sprinkled amongst them, a McD, a Burger King, a Taco Bell, an Applebee's, a Moe's, a Panera, a Krispy Kreme, a Hardees, and a Chick-Fil-A. Expand the radius from my house to 3 blocks, and you add 2 family run sushi bars, 4 Chinese restaurants, a good Thai place, a local seafood hangout of some reknown, another 3 serious bar & grill operations, a Fresh Market, a tapas place open 'til 2 a.m. most nights, a family owned Greek place, a Cici's pizza, and a fried chicken operation. Expand the radius to 6 blocks, and you can further choose from Sonny's Barbeque, 5 Guys Burgers, all the national chain pizza delivery operations, and several locals, a new Bob Evans, a Denny's, a Waffle House, a couple more steakhouses, a Chinese buffet joint, about 10 smoothie operations, several ice cream parlors, more McDs, more Hardees, KFC, Krystal, What-a-Burger, Sonic, Dunkin' Donuts, and 4 or 5 Mexican places, as well as at least 3 places making 12 inch, heavily stuffed Apalachicola oyster po' boys, for $5.95, every day that oysters are in season. And at least one decent tamale joint, too.

Eh, it just never occurs to me to eat at Subway. But I loves me a good oyster po' boy, anytime...
posted by paulsc at 10:47 PM on March 8, 2011


I've noticed that the West Coast seems to hate chains with a passion.

Ironic, given how many franchises were born on the West Coast. First ones that come to mind for me are In-N-Out, and the original McDonald's, before Ray Kroc bought the franchising rights.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:51 PM on March 8, 2011


In hindsight, I was thinking of this Ask Mefi about that bread smell. Someone suggested that they had two bread recipes, one that smells a lot and one that smell less.

My experience is very old (I worked at Subway back in the days of the u-cut!), but this absolutely was not true at our store. Our two bread recipes were white and wheat, and we got the dough pre-made and frozen. There was a yeasty smell when it proofed, and a bake-y smell when it baked. There was no difference to my nose between baking the white bread and baking the wheat bread (this was also before all those other options came out).

To be a Certified Sandwich Artist, you had to make a footlong with (in order):

-The BMT meats, which were I think 2 cuts of ham and 16 rounds each of salami and pepperoni
-4 slices of cheese (all triangles pointing the same way)
-.75 oz onion
-1.25 oz lettuce
-5 tomato rounds
-4 lengths of green pepper
-6 pickles
-4 olives
-a squirt of oil
-salt and pepper

I might be getting the amounts a bit wrong, especially the onion and lettuce. It was a long time ago. But we had competitions, and at the end they pulled your sandwich back apart and even weighed the onion and lettuce. If you'd made it in under a minute once the time penalties for wrong amounts were applied, you were certified, and got a t-shirt. It was fun. Though the first time I tried, I was so stressed that I forgot to put the meats in. Turns out the sheet doesn't even list a penalty for that one; I guess they assume anyone that boneheaded wouldn't make it past the interview. Joke's on them!
posted by solotoro at 1:08 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Demolition Man got it wrong.

Subway: what's your boggle?
posted by bwg at 5:47 AM on March 9, 2011


PlayerHaterFilter?
posted by grubi at 7:30 AM on March 9, 2011


In totally non-related news, McDonalds introduces a new line of submarine sandwiches.
posted by leapfrog at 9:01 AM on March 9, 2011


The rather obvious reasons why they put the peppers back is that they cost money and that the bin is further away and likely behind them.

Huh. I've never, ever seen this happen (that is, something that has touched a sandwich get tossed back into an ingredient container). Every Subway store I've ever been in has had trash chute openings along the assembly line. All the debris gets swept or shoved into those holes (presumably into trash cans beneath the counter). Since I've never seen a store that didn't have these, I assumed it was a standard feature of all Subways.
posted by aught at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2011


Seeing no eateries besides a gas station Subway counter, we rolled up to the dog track and asked a guy what there was nearby. "There's this great little place up the road--" he said, "they can make you anything. You want eggs? They'll make you eggs. It's called Subway."

Okay. This reminds me of a story my mom (picture a very nice and somewhat culturally sheltered suburban grandmother) told us maybe ten years ago. She and my dad were out shopping one afternoon, and as supper time drew near (which is to say between 4 and 5 for people my folks' age) they began looking for a place to eat. "We came across this really quaint Mexican food place -- you would have loved it, Ronnie! Wait, oh, what was it called again?" she says to my dad.

"Chili's," my dad chimes in.

"Yes!" Mom continues. "Next time you're visiting we'll have to take you there, you know, for something really different!"
posted by aught at 12:21 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love the smell of Subway's baking bread (even after having worked there), but there is a pretty horrific smell that happens if you let the proofer's water pan dry out.
posted by kimota at 8:57 AM on March 10, 2011


Or more to the point, letting multiple franchisees open up their shops on one another's doorsteps. Can anyone who has worked for them let us know if they have a zone of exclusivity for each franchise? The things seem to be thick on the ground in many cities (as seen above) but I am not sure why a franchisee would cast his lot in with them if a year from now another Subway might open up across the street.

They do not, by design. Franchisees often complain that if they are hugely profitable Subway corp will open stores near them to make more margin.
posted by jaduncan at 8:04 PM on March 10, 2011


I stopped eating at Subway when I noticed that their microwavable-precooked-steak-that-sits-out-for-hours-on-end had an otherworldly metallic green sheen.

No thanks, Subway. No thanks.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2011


It is impossible to get a decent cheese sandwich there. They have the "veggie delight," which comes with two little tiny pieces of cheese, offered as a little bit of flavor. If you want to have them make a cheese sandwich you have to tell them to put extra cheese on the sandwich ten times. Each time they look at you incredulously as if you're really sure you want that much, and you do know, do you not, that it is 25 cents for each piece. It makes me want to put the responsible bean counter's head in a vice.
posted by nervousfritz at 9:51 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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