Subway cut its US restaurant growth in half in last year.
The world’s largest sandwich chain opened 313 new restaurants in 2014, down from 638 net restaurants in 2013 and 805 in 2012, Bloomberg reports.
As Subway cut back on new restaurant growth last year, sales fell by 3% to $US11.9 billion, according to QSR magazine.
Subway says boosting sales at existing restaurants is its biggest priority right now.
“Development has not been a focus over the past few years and has been put on the back burner,” Subway spokesman Kevin Kane told Bloomberg. “We are still opening stores, but our current focus is on working with franchisees to improve store sales.”
Subway rose to become one of the biggest restaurant chains in the world with more than 43,000 outlets by advertising a healthier, fresh alternative to traditional fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King.
The chain was a pioneer in made-to-order sandwiches, prepared right in front of customers by employees taking orders in an assembly-line fashion.
But then, other rivals, such as Chipotle and Panera, started offering even fresher options — like antibiotic-free meats and additive-free guacamole prepared on site.
According to analysts, Subway didn’t evolve quickly enough to meet diners’ changing ideas about what is considered fresh and healthy.
As a result, Subway is facing an eroding public perception regarding the quality of its food.
Now the chain is committing to remove all artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives from its food over the next two years.
But Subway has a new problem.
The brand’s spokesman of 15 years, Jared Fogle, has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography and travelling across state lines to have sex with minors.
It remains to be seen whether the chain will see an tangible impact in sales as a result of the Fogle scandal.
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