The day QSR interviewed Subway’s director of development, Don Fertman, the sandwich chain was celebrating. It had just hit the 32,000-store mark the day before, and the company showed no signs of slowing. In fact, Fertman confidently predicted that by the time the article ran, the chain would have added close to 500 more stores. For those interested in the math: That’s almost seven stores a day between interview and press time.
While the growth of nontraditional units in the U.S. has helped the chain boost its system to chart-topping numbers stateside, its international expansion remains equally aggressive. Fertman, who’s been with the brand since its first international store opened 16 years ago in Saudi Arabia, sat down to explain how the brand continues to grow despite the global recession, what territories he’s watching closest, and how your brand can follow in his footsteps.
What do you attribute to Subway’s international success? The secrets to our success are probably not secrets. I think they’re really obvious and it has to do with the fact that people want something that tastes good, that’s a good value, and is something that is hopefully good
Initially, Subway identified 10 major markets that the company was focusing on internationally. Are those markets still the focus? We’re looking at a number of markets. We’ve moved beyond the 10 markets that we had the big focus on because we found that other markets are growing, surprisingly rapidly.
For example, in our initial reading of top markets we did not include Russia. Right now Russia is up to 75 stores and our developer there has just announced plans to get to more than 1,000 stores by the end of 2015, quite an aggressive goal. But they’re looking at the economics in the market and they can see that Russia is a much bigger market than was originally anticipated. Another market is the United Arab Emirates, that was not on the top 10 but that is one of our fastest growing areas because it’s a fast-growing country. There’s a lot of construction going on there, there’s a lot of influx in population, there’s a lot of tourism. So that’s a strong growth area.