A Subway sign
Source: Getty Images

Subway Explores Selling — Is the Sandwich Franchise Going Out of Business?

Danielle Letenyei - Author
By

Jan. 13 2023, Published 1:40 p.m. ET

Once considered the fastest-growing franchise in the world, business for Subway sandwich shops has declined over the past five years.

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According to the data website ScrapeHero, there were 20,700 Subway locations across the country in 2022. Although that may seem like a lot, it's less than the 27,103 locations the chain had in 2015, when it reached the status of the fastest-growing restaurant chain. The chain operates 37,000 locations around the world.

A man eating a Subway sandwich
Source: Subway
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Is Subway going out of business?

No, Subway isn’t going out of business. But the popular sandwich shop company may be getting new owners. The privately-owned company has retained advisers to help explore a sale that could value it at more than $10 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 11, 2023.

Since it’s still early in the process, there's a possibility the company won’t sell, the WSJ reports.

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“As a privately held company, we don’t comment on ownership structure and business plans,” Subway said in a statement to the WSJ. “We continue to be focused on moving the brand forward with our transformational journey to help our franchisees be successful and profitable.”

Who owns Subway?

Subway is owned by the families of the two men who first started the sandwich shop back in 1965. Fred DeLuca was 17 years old and looking for ways to make money for college when he approached family friend and nuclear physicist Dr. Peter Buck with the idea of opening a sandwich shop.

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deluca buck
Source: Subway

Dr. Peter Buck and Fred DeLuca

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Buck invested $1,000 in DeLuca’s idea, and the two opened Pete’s Drive-In Super Submarines in Bridgeport, Conn. DeLuca and Buck eventually incorporated as Doctor’s Associates Inc., which is the company that still owns Subway today.

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By 1974, the Connecticut-based sandwich shop company had 16 locations throughout the state and rebranded to the name Subway. It was then that DeLuca and Buck decided to branch out and franchise the Subway brand.

The original goal was to open 32 restaurants. By 1981, Subway had opened its 200th location in the U.S. The franchise opened its first global location in Bahrain in 1984.

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subway sandwich artist
Source: Subway

A customer making a Subway sandwich.

In 2021, Subway had 37,000 locations worldwide and $9.4 billion in sales. While most of the restaurant locations are in the U.S., there are also many locations in Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, and other parts of the world.

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Many remember the rise and fall of Subway spokesman Jared Fogle.

One of the biggest setbacks for the popular sandwich franchise was the very public fall from grace of its spokesperson Jared Fogle. Fogle became the national spokesman for Subway in 2000 after losing over 200 pounds in a diet that included Subway turkey sandwiches.

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jared fogle subway
Source: Getty Images

Jared Fogle

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Subway sales had more than tripled by 2011 due to the Jared commercials, the New York Daily News reported in 2013. But that would end in 2015 when Fogle was dropped as Subway’s spokesperson after he was charged with possessing child pornography and illicit sexual conduct with a minor.

Despite the possibility of a sale and new owners in the future, customers can rest assured knowing that Subway isn't going out of business — at least not anytime soon.

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