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Subway's Struggle: How a Sandwich Giant Lost Its Bite in the UK

Subway's Struggle: How a Sandwich Giant Lost Its Bite in the UK

9 July 2024

Connor Banks

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Subway plastic bag

Once a dominant force in the fast food industry, Subway has encountered significant hurdles since the pandemic grappling with the need to evolve in a rapidly changing market. Known for its customisable sandwiches, Subway's recent attempts to remain relevant have largely failed to catch up, resulting in a drop in market share and waning customer loyalty. But why has that been the case? What has caused this former giant of the fast-food industry in the UK to have this fall from grace?

Subway's Rollercoaster Ride: The Ups and Downs of Sandwich Quality

How many times have you been to a Subway in recent years and you order your regular order only for it to be a massive disappointment? Well, that’s a problem many customers in the UK have also faced. Customers frequently report massive inconsistency in the freshness and preparation of ingredients which has led to many people not wanting to go back. In the fast food industry, where consistency is paramount, Subway's failure to maintain uniform quality has significantly tarnished its reputation.

Stuck in a Sandwich Rut: Subway's Static Menu Fails to Spark Consumer Excitement

Subway's menu has remained relatively stagnant over the years. Whereas other brands like McDonald’s and KFC regularly introduce new and exciting items, Subway has lagged behind. Its menu has remained largely unchanged with no new items to entice new or previous customers to come back. This is something that McDonald’s has utilised well as the new items bring in new customers and returning customers even if most people continue to stick with their standard order. This lack of innovation has been shown to be inefficient with their "Make It What You Want" campaign, aimed at emphasising customisation, which did not sufficiently set Subway apart from other fast food options and failed to generate excitement among consumers.

Subway Sub Card

Digital Disconnect: Subway's Tech Upgrades Miss the Mark

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many fast food brands successfully pivoted to focus on delivery and digital ordering. Subway, however, struggled with this transition. Despite efforts to expand digital and marketing platforms globally, including partnerships for data-driven marketing, these initiatives were not enough to offset the decline in foot traffic and in-store sales.

Facing the Heat: Subway's Battle with Economic and Market Challenges

The economic impact of the pandemic and subsequent inflation crisis hit Subway particularly hard. Rising ingredient costs and operational challenges further squeezed Subway’s margins. Unlike some competitors, Subway was less equipped to handle these economic pressures, leading to financial difficulties and a wave of store closures.

Brand Struggles: Subway's Fight Against Fierce Competition

Subway's branding efforts have faltered against the dynamic campaigns of competitors. McDonald's and KFC have captivated consumers with exciting new menu items and quality improvements, securing their interest and loyalty. In contrast, Subway's campaigns often seem outdated and fail to resonate with modern consumer tastes.

Subway's inability to adapt to modern market demands has resulted in a steady decline from 2020 to 2024. The combination of inconsistent product quality, lack of menu innovation, ineffective digital transformation, economic pressures, and strong competitive pressure has significantly impacted the brand. Without substantial changes and a strategic overhaul, Subway risks continuing its downward trajectory in an increasingly competitive fast-food landscape.

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