In July of this year, quick-service sandwich chain Subway debuted a newly designed menu across all its national locations. The menu makeover, titled “Eat Fresh Refresh,” includes new ingredients, revamped and new sandwiches, and a corresponding marketing campaign designed to attract new and old customers. 

Subsequently, Subway announced a September monthly sales increase of 4% as compared to the same period in 2019. And according to CivicScience data, this menu refresh might have come at the perfect time. 

Subway customers have reported a decline in the chain’s food quality in recent months. However, once July hit, and the new menu was unveiled, negative experiences began to reverse course.

So is Subway’s new menu a hit? The answer is that it’s complicated. 

Among national quick-service sandwich chains, Subway has nearly always had a slight edge over its major competitors, and clearly so in the last 30 days.

Subway is a ubiquitous establishment – stop at any interstate rest stop or gas station across the country and you’re likely to find a franchise location nearby. This may be key to Subway’s higher recent sales. Over the course of the summer, people began traveling more than they did during the past year, likely bringing them into more frequent contact with Subway locations than they normally would. Because, as the data show, when asked directly about Subway’s new menu, the majority of respondents aren’t interested. 

However, already 20% of consumers aware of Subway’s new menu have tried the offerings, and another quarter of respondents intend to try the new offerings, suggesting that Subway’s marketing efforts may be working. 

Yet, this trend in trying Subway’s new menu is higher among those traveling now or planning to travel in the next few months, adding to the idea that increased travel is behind Subway’s recent sales increase. Those planning travel soon, are even more likely to try Subway’s new menu, indicating sales might increase even further in the short term, though again, not necessarily due to the new menu alone.

But aside from likely travelers, the drive to try out the new Refresh menu is also led by younger consumers. 

Age data is promising, especially when considering Subway’s marketing efforts have traditionally targeted 16- to 35-year-olds. However, as age increases, consumers seem less likely to be interested in Subway’s new menu, which is interesting, given that overall favorability of Subway is relatively high across all age groups.

So it seems that Subway still has some daylight between those who view it favorably and those who have tried its new menu. This gap may ultimately imply room to grow as comfort to go out to eat, travel, and socialize continues to increase. 

As the summer transitions into fall and winter, CivicScience will keep an eye on quick-service and fast-casual food chain trends, to see what customers may be experiencing.