Subway is revamping itself by going old-school with deli slicers

Subway is going back to typical delicatessen roots, when customers order a sandwich and watch as an employee grabs a salami or turkey log and uses a slicer to prepare the order. The sandwich chain introduced deli slicers and freshly sliced meats at stores as its latest step in the ongoing initiative to revamp itself. 

The chain famous for its foot-long sandwich officially unveiled the move to add both to its roughly 20,000 restaurants across the U.S. on Wednesday, in addition to an expansion of its 18-sandwich "Subway Series" menu. Four sandwiches designed to showcase the freshly sliced meats will join that menu’s existing sandwich lineup, according to Subway.

Subway North America President Trevor Haynes told FOX Business the "food focus" of the fresh meat slicing and new menu items will get consumers "really excited about the brand again."

"I think they saw it with the Subway Series, where they could actually order off the menu and have a great tasting sandwich without thinking about it and trying new builds, et cetera, but this will just click it to another level," he said. "Everything that we do in regards to the transformation centers around our food and ensuring we deliver a great meal experience for our guests."

The in-restaurant meat slicing, an effort two years in the making, will take place a few times a day.

The implementation of the deli slicers was a "natural progression" and "another step" in "how do we elevate our deli sandwiches," Chef Paul Fabre, Subway’s senior vice president of culinary and innovation, told FOX Business.

Outfitting U.S. restaurants with deli slicers, which it gifted to franchisees, required an $80 million investment, the company said. Installation took about nine months overall.

Subway "expect[s] to see relatively quick pay back in regards to this option," Haynes said.

The chain’s restaurants in Canada will see the slicers "at the end of the year," according to Haynes, who also said "probably there will likely be other markets that will introduce it as well."

The new "Deli Heroes" sandwiches are named Titan Turkey, Grand Slam Ham, Garlic Roast Beef and The Beast, all of which have twice the traditional amount of cheese, Subway said.

The Beast features pepperoni, salami, turkey, ham and roast beef, amounting to a total of 0.5 pounds of meat, Subway said. The new turkey and ham sandwiches, meanwhile, pack on one-third of additional meat compared to normal ones.

Fabre told FOX Business he thought the Titan Turkey "will perform the best" of the four, noting that turkey "is such a staple" and Subway’s "classic turkey is our number-one selling sandwich."

ind of a sleeper one will be The Beast," he added. "We’ve seen in tests that people just gravitate toward the five meats. They see a lot of value in that, and it’s a great tasting sub so I think this one surprised us a little bit."

Subway also on Wednesday announced plans for a massive giveaway in connection to the freshly sliced deli meats, saying in the release it will provide "up to 1 million free six-inch Deli Heros sub at participating restaurants across the country" for two hours starting at 10 a.m. local time on July 11. 

The company’s revamping efforts date back to 2021, the year it implemented a swath of updates to its ingredients and made changes to its digital ordering. That was followed a year later by the unveiling of the then 12-sandwich "Subway Series."

Subway has also been working with franchisees to give U.S. locations face-lifts over. Over 10,000 in North America have received renovations to date. 

The sandwich chain’s nearly 37,000-store global footprint includes thousands of non-U.S. stores on top of the roughly 20,000 in America. Competition is fierce in the fast casual restaurant space from established players such as McDonald's, Chipotle and Yum Brand's KFC and Taco Bell, as well as newly public Cava. 

In late April, the company said its first-quarter same-store sales globally saw a year-over-year increase of 12.1%. The growth rate was just slightly smaller in North America, at 11.7%, according to Subway’s press release.

That quarter’s results marked its ninth in a row of positive sales, the company said at the time.

Subway, founded by the late Fred DeLuca and Dr. Peter Buck, has been privately-owned since its beginnings in the 60s. Ownership could potentially change in the future, however, as the company revealed in mid-February it was "exploring a possible sale of the company."

The sale exploration process is "certainly ticking along," Haynes said, telling FOX Business an update on the matter would likely come "in the middle of summer."