With 40,874 stores worldwide, it’s clear that Subway is enjoying global success as a franchise business.
And it’s a trend that is echoed across the UK and Ireland, including the North East. Subway Tyne Tees region is set to launch its 100th franchise in the region this week, bolstering its North East workforce to around 1000.
Its success, according to Subway franchisee and development agent Owen Bradford, is down to the brand’s popularity as the “healthier” fast food option, coupled with its “store in a box” approach to franchising.
With 19 sites, Owen is the largest Subway franchisee in the region. He, along with business partner Steve Taylor launched their first store in Newcastle’s Newgate Street 11 years ago. And 18 months ago Owen was given the opportunity to take over the contract as development agent for the brand’s Tyne Tees region, working hand in hand with fellow franchisee, Kodi Sanerivi.
Based in Cramlington, the pair are responsible for seeking out potential Subway sites, finding new franchisees, as well as giving support to new starters.
This year they have opened 11 new North East stores, creating around 88 new jobs in the process. According to Owen, the brand is 4% up growth wise this year across the Tyne Tees region, as well as nationally. Sales are increasing year on year by 7%. Much of this success can be attributed to he and Kodi.
Owen, 49 from Gosforth, said: “In the region we expect to open another 25 stores before January 2015 and this will create even more jobs. I think we weathered the recession quite well and we are seeing terrific growth. The positivity that’s coming back from the franchisees is quite refreshing.”
Like the majority of the region’s 36 Subway franchisees, Owen’s career started on a very different path. Following in his father’s footsteps, he served an apprenticeship in book binding and worked at Newcastle University before a timely redundancy allowed him to concentrate on the Subway businesses full time.
He said: “Franchisees come from all sorts of backgrounds. People may have taken early retirement, been made redundant, or just want a change of career.
“There is a retired PE teacher, former supermarket manager, ex soldiers, among the franchisees, and even a couple of my own former employees. To see them go from working in the shop to running their own Subway businesses and employing people is excellent. It’s the way forward for everybody.”
Despite being a global brand, each individual Subway in the region is very much a local business, according to Owen.
“Some franchises you get lumped in with a global company, while with Subway they are run by local business people. Many don’t actually realise how ‘local’ Subway really is. Franchisees run their own business and pay all their own local taxes. It’s the brand that’s above the door and it does give a level of importance. It was Bill Gates that said, ‘your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity’ and I very much believe that.”
Subway prides itself on its high levels of training, with many of the new entrepreneurs travelling to its franchise world headquarters in Connecticut to learn the ropes.
“You get a lot of training and the business is very easy to pick up. Everything you need to run the store is all there for you, which is why it’s a popular choice,” said Owen. “If you were setting up your own business, you could make a lot of mistakes along the way, and those mistakes could cost you a lot of money. Subway helps you avoid all that.
“You benefit from the global brand recognition and all the international promotions that go with that, but it’s also a local business at the end of the day and you can be as flexible as you like.”
The Subway Tyne Tees region covers Berwick across to Hull and down to York. Location is key when looking for the right site, according to Owen.
“It’s all about finding the right site. Location, location, location is key. However the inner city sites aren’t always necessarily the busiest.
“The most profitable stores are on the outlying regions where they have low rent and high footfall. Our store on the outskirts of Sunderland gives us a much higher return than any other store.”
Since 2011, the Subway brand has been a committed partner of the Government’s Department of Health Responsibility Deal, having endorsed all six of the nutrition-related consumer facing pledges.
Most recently the brand has signed up to reduce saturated fat. Together with Heart Research UK, it has raised £300,000 for the Healthy Heart Grants scheme, awarding grants to organisations across the UK committed to improving heart health.
On a local level, Owen has forged links with basketball team, the Newcastle Eagles, to spread the healthy eating message around local schools.
Despite being the biggest franchisee in the region, Owen is still hungry for more.
“We keep saying we are going to stop but it’s like a drug. We are personally looking at launching another four of five sites. Originally we wanted to stop at 10, and then we decided 14 was enough. Now we’re up to 19 and thought how did that happen?If you spot a good location you just can’t resist.”