Subway $5 Footlong is going away, but paninis may be coming

The chain is testing some more exotic tastes. Haynes said they’re working on what’s been dubbed Firebird chicken, a spicier rotisserie-type poultry, and guajillo steak.

Plus, 200 San Diego locations are testing a quartet of new sandwiches, which the chain refers to as “regional flavors” — a Steakhouse Melt (shaved steak, American cheese, onions, green peppers, spinach and Sub Spice), a California Club (oven-roasted turkey, fresh avocado and Mustard Seed Spread), a Provencal Tuna Melt (tuna, cheese, tomatoes, spinach and Provencal herbs) and an Italian Grinder (pepperoni, Genoa salami, Black Forest ham, onions, Signature Herb Garlic Oil and cracked black pepper).

New beverages include Watermelon Agua Fresca and Passion Fruit Agua Fresca.

And while the large, long rolls are a key part of Subway sandwiches, the company is now experimenting paninis in California.

They’re not the brand’s first foray into alternative breads. In March, Subway launched a line of wraps, which Haynes called “extremely successful for our brand.” Subway had tried this carb form in in 2004, followed by a tortilla option in select markets three years later.

Gordon doesn’t expect much from Subway’s move to new tastes, though, explaining, “Bold flavors and spices have been a big deal in restaurants for at least five years. They totally missed that. They were asleep at the switch.”

He said the $5 Footlong was a hit in 2007-2008 due to the recession and the healthy image the veggie-heavy subs had at a time when Americans began to care more about what they ate. Then, crickets.

“That was 10 years ago. Nothing has happened at Subway essentially in 10 years,” he said.

Gordon gives Subway a thumbs-up for its new wraps, but advises moving away from bread and starting to serve meats shaved and stacked deli-style, if the chain wants to avoid fellow sub chain Quiznos’s downward spiral.

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