When Subway chief executive Suzanne Greco took over the sandwich chain after the death of her older brother, she knew what others were thinking: “‘What is she going to do? What is she going to say?’ I think a lot of people didn’t know what to expect from me.”
Fred DeLuca, the company’s cofounder, had led Subway for decades, but he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013 and died two years later. Ms. Greco had been running operations and research and development for the company—the largest restaurant chain in the world, based on number of stores—and was elevated to the job of CEO. “I wasn’t really thinking of being a leader or climbing the corporate ladder,” she says.
Ms. Greco, who admits she was often known within the company as “Fred’s sister,” faced challenges right away. Customer traffic had been declining for years. At the end of 2017, Subway had nearly 44,000 franchisee-owned locations around the world—including almost 26,000 in the U.S.—down about 750 from the end of 2015. According to industry research firm Technomic, U.S. sales fell from $11.3 billion in 2016 to $10.8 billion in 2017. Late last year, hundreds of franchisees protested the company’s $4.99 foot-long sandwich deal, saying the discount was eating into their profits. The company says that participation in promotions is optional and that 97% of its U.S. locations are running the deal.
Ms. Greco, now 60, has staged a brand overhaul and is in the midst of updating the stores’ look, technology and menu. The “Fresh Forward” redesign, now adapted by around 200 stores, features brightly colored modern décor. Earlier this year, Subway reintroduced wraps and began running discounts on its health-focused offerings.
Wall Street Journal
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