Sandwich shops compete for $5 lunch 
emphasizing health and value

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Sandwich shops compete for $5 lunch ?emphasizing health and value
Sandwich shops compete for $5 lunch ?emphasizing health and value


Founded in 1965

More than 34,000 locations worldwide


Founded in 1987

Almost 4,000 locations worldwide

With cost-conscious consumers looking for cheap, healthy lunch options, sandwich chains are focused on marketing that highlights value. Fast food purveyors Subway and Quiznos both promote sandwiches to consumers as a healthy alternative to burgers and fries at a competitive $5 price point.

Subway is the second largest restaurant chain in the US, second only to McDonald's, according to Technomic, a research firm specializing in fast food data. Subway had $10.6 billion in total US sales last year, a 6% growth compared with 2009. The company is the leader in the so-called "other sandwich" segment as defined by Technomic. Quiznos, on the other hand, had $1.4 billion in US sales, a 15% decline compared with 2009. 

Subway is well established in terms of branding, cornering the healthy alternative messaging through its longtime spokesperson Jared Fogle, who lost more than 200 pounds eating Subway sandwiches and is now running marathons. This, coupled with the $5 footlong mantra, gives Subway its cheap and healthy reputation.

"When you think of Subway, you think of their fresh ingredients, a healthy alternative to burgers and the $5 footlong," says Mary Chapman, director of product innovation at Technomic. "They own this." Quiznos is attempting a run at the $5 price point, but it isn't as prominent in its marketing messages. "Quiznos has a $5 sandwich, but it's not as well known," adds Chapman. "It feels defensive, and you can see the difference in their sales."

Aaron Shapiro, CEO of digital agency Huge agrees. "It is not clear to me who the brand is," he says. "Subway has done a good job being clear about what their brand is, whereas Quiznos feels more like a brand in transition that can't decide if its about soups and salads 
or $5 sandwiches." 

Quiznos faced class-action lawsuits from franchises, which doesn't help brand recognition, but Subway last summer suffered a salmonella outbreak in Illinois.

Quiznos declined to comment for this story, while Subway did not respond to requests from Direct Marketing News.

Both companies have email marketing programs, but Subway's is more sophisticated. Subway's emails have a clear call-to-action in the subject lines, clean design with strong branding and links to social media pages are featured prominently. 

"Their email has a good mix of content in support of their brand, such as health tips, sweepstakes and discounts," says Lana McGilvray, VP of marketing at Datran Media. "It is simple and straightforward and has a clear call-to-action. The branding is clear and distinct and there is good access to the menu. This is very good in my book."

Quiznos' email design is not as clean as Subway's; its emails appear cluttered. However, the company does send valuable offers and coupons to recipients, which delivers on the brand promise of low prices. "You have to go all the way to the bottom to join their social media, or order online, which is a loss," says McGilvray. "Overall, the email has no clear call-to-action and too much going on. It could use a repositioning of the content, as well as a button to 'look at the email as a full Web page.'"

Both companies could also improve their email programs by including an email address capture on their social media pages.

When it comes to online marketing, Subway and Quiznos receive similar marks. While Subway has a cleaner design on its website, it loses points for not having as the consumer-facing site. The consumer-facing site,, is harder to find. "It creates consumer confusion, because people tend to go to the website that is the brand's name," says Shapiro. "We've seen a lot of marketers do this — create a consumer page that is different from their corporate page — but it is a mistake. It just confuses people." 

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