By Robert Stitt
Up until recently, Fred DeLuca who started Subway in 1965 took care of the day-to-day business affairs of the company. This was no small task since Subway had become the largest fast food franchise in the world. In fact, the franchise which started as a single store that sold healthy food alternatives in Bridgeport, Connecticut currently has grown to nearly 44,000 Subway shops operating in 110 countries around the world. Even so, according to Celebrity Net Worth, DeLuca “signed all the company checks, made the big decisions, and traveled the country undercover in an old car to stop at Subway franchises and sample the food and service.”
When he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, DeLuca started to transfer some of his responsibilities. When his health took a serious turn for the worse, he named his sister, Suzanne Greco, President of Subway and put her in charge of the day-to-day operations.
DeLuca died on September 14, 2015 at the age of 67.
Their founder’s death is just one of many troubles the Subway chain has faced lately. Much of the chain’s marketing success over the last two decades was based on Jared Fogle, the company’s long-time spokesperson who had dropped a whopping 200 pounds by eating only Subway sandwiches. Fogle recently pled guilty to s*x acts with minors and distribution of child pornography which led Subway to sever ties with him.
The Fogle scandal came on the heels of negative publicity from FoodBabe.com who made it public that Subway used the same material in their bread as other shops used to make yoga mats. And it was revealed that their 12-inch sandwich wasn’t actually a full foot long.
If this wasn’t bad enough, consumers started to get bored with the same old sub. Competition from exciting new competitors such as Chipotle, Firehouse Subs, Jimmy Johns, Jersey Mike’s, and other healthy and gourmet sandwich shops started to eat into Subway’s profits. Last quarter, the company took the largest loss of any restaurant chain, enough to drop them to number three in sales. Starbucks is now number two with McDonalds at number one.
Can Subway overcome the loss of its owner and spokesperson within months of each other? Will the franchise start to go the way of so many other chains before them and soon become nothing more than the answer to a Jeopardy question? Time will tell.