Subway by the Numbers: 44,000 Locations, Largest Fast Food Chain in the World

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It is too early to say what damage Subway might face as its many-year spokesman, Jared Fogle, heads to prison. Probably not much. There has been no public analysis of Subway’s recent sales. It has diversified its spokespeople to a line of prominent athletes and celebrities, including NBA star Russell Westbrook, gymnast Nastia Liukin and NASCAR champion Carl Edwards. These people are famous enough to be brands unto themselves. This decision, and its “healthy food” menu, may make Subway nearly bulletproof.

Based on several sources, Subway has in excess of 44,000 stores. It business model is set up so that it owns none of these. Subway says that its 21,000 franchisees do. Forbes estimates Subway’s annual sales at $20 billion.

Subway’s store count puts it ahead of the 36,000 locations McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) says it has. In the case of the huge burger chain, it owns a large percentage of its stores. Based on its public filings, McDonald’s revenue per year is about $27 billion. That means McDonald’s has a higher yield per store.

McDonald’s revenue has been dropping, by as much as 10% quarter over previous quarter. In the June quarter, it dropped from $7.2 billion in the same quarter last year to $6.5 billion. Net income dropped 13% to $1.2 billion. McDonald’s market cap is $95 billion. In an IPO, Subway’s might come close to that. However, it is hard to tell whether Subway’s sales are falling as well, though USAToday argues that sales at Subway have fallen recently.

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One of Subway’s largest advantages is that it is considered a healthy food alternative to fast-food menus at McDonald’s and its chief rivals. To rekindle sales, McDonald’s management is pushing its menu in the direction of Subway’s.

Subway also has had the advantage that it is not a major target of workers seeking higher wages. Perhaps this is because it is not a public company, so labor organizers have no extensive facts on what its management makes, and worker pay figures are harder to come by since each franchisee can presumably set its own.

The level of anxiety among Subway’s management as Fogle heads to jail is probably close to zero.