How Subway Conquered India through Localization



Subway was founded in the year 1965 by a Nuclear Physicist, Peter Buck, and a college freshman, Fred DeLuca, in Connecticut. Since then, Subway has grown into one of the world’s largest restaurant chains.

There are near about 21,000 franchisee stores and over 40,000 operating neighbourhood food stores in 100 countries. The Restaurant has been making its own bread since the 1980s, and offers more than 37 million sandwich combinations.

In 2002, subway surpassed McDonald’s to become the franchise with the highest number of outlets. As of 2013, Subway had an annual revenue of $9 billion from its franchise outlets spread across 102 countries. Currently, the Subway brand owns more than 44800 outlets located in more than 112 countries and has been growing ever since.


It was in 1975 when subway switched its operation to a franchise-based business model. Around eight years later, the company had enough earnings and experience to grow from 16 stores up to 200 stores, which by 1990 reached 5144 locations. The Company’s goal was to reach 8,000 stores by 1995. The growing interest of the customers boosted the company’s numbers to surpass their original target of 8000 stores by an additional 2000 stores by 1995.

In today’s market, the customer is spoilt with choices all around. Thus, the challenge was to grab the attention of its customers and create a unique brand image simultaneously. Therefore, Subway came up with a Fresh-Forward design as its brand’s new strategy aimed at transforming customer experience. Trevor Haynes, vice-president of Operations with Subway says, the new Fresh-Forward design revolutionizes every point of the customer experience — from the design and look of the franchise locations to how customers order their meals.

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 though Subway is a global brand, with its menu and cafe setting generally compatible throughout the world, they take great pride in worshipping and esteeming neighbourhood values, customs and nostalgic food items, which gives it the acclaim of providing beneficial alternatives to common low-quality nourishment food items.

While still keeping international top picks like the Turkey and Chicken Teriyaki sandwiches, Subway India introduced sandwiches without meat or pork, settling on neighbourhood veggie choices like the Veggie Patty, Paneer Tikka (a typical South Asian curd cheddar cut in cubes) and Aloo Patty (potato cake) as well.

The food distinction is important due to various religious beliefs and strict convictions (for example Jainism and Hinduism), one of every three Indians is a veggie lover. Considering all this, Subway India continues introducing new items like the Veg Shammi (lentil-based patty), Corn and Peas, and the Green Pea Patty.

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India being a country filled with long-held cultural traditions & strong religious viewpoints associated with food, most consumers have strong notions about the ingredients used and the food-preparation process. Subway India’s commercial foodservice is not just based on the menu, price value, or speed of service but also on the physical appearance of the outlet and most importantly, hygiene controls.

Subway’s concept of preparing food right in front of a customer and as per their own choices has changed this mentality in India since people can see how their food is being prepared. Unlike Subways around the world, Subway India daily makes fresh bread from scratch (As Indians are used to consuming fresh bread prepared daily at home called ‘Chapati’).


Certain religions preach non-violence in India. To emphasize the importance of vegetarian living in India, over 80% of respondents according to surveys, indicated that they preferred being vegetarian be it in fast food or family-style restaurants.

Thus, respecting various religious beliefs, Subway India keeps vegetarian and non-vegetarian counters at a distance from each other and has even launched complete vegetarian eateries at certain places. Some other additions made by Subway to fit better in the Indian culture are Mexican Bean Patty (red and black beans with Mexican spices), Green Peas Patty, Hara Bhara Sub (spinach mixed with Indian spices) and the Chatpata Chana Sub (Indian chickpea curry).

Indian Sentiment based Advertising

The marketing department of Subway tries to create a valuable consumer experience considering all income customer groups. It also points towards the advertisement where the Subway was changed to ‘SubWAAH’, Waah meaning a pleasant surprise, to create a sense of belongingness in Indians as that word carries a lot of sentimental value.


Majority of people around the world are huge fans of social media applications especially when they come with a twist.

Looking at Subway India’s feed on Instagram, there are numerous pictures of “subs” and “combos” with values and messages related to local culture, therefore, finding the right platform to advertise is also very important.

As for value “combos”, one picture advertisement on Subway India’s Instagram presented their Paneer Tikka ‘sub’, a Lipton ice tea, and their version of Lay’s potato chips called India’s Magic Masala.

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In contrast to international Subway outlets that typically use green and yellow colouring to promote their product, this advertisement used pink, blue, and green, which are colours associated with calmness and friendship in Hinduism.


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Initiating the celebration of World Sandwich Day 2019, Subway India invited its guests to be a part of their global campaign #GoodComesBack by availing ‘Buy one get one free’ (BOGO) offer on all menu items on November 01, 2019 (Friday).

Appealing to the money-conscious Indian Customer, Subway’s BOGO campaign has been a great running hit in India!


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