The restaurant industry has been hit hard since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing thousands of eateries across the country to temporarily, and in some cases permanently, close.
Even America's largest chains are not immune.
Since mid-March, Subway has laid off more than 150 employees, 100 of which worked at the sandwich chain's corporate offices, Alan Marcus, Subway's senior director of public relations confirmed to TODAY Food. Prior to the pandemic, the Connecticut-based company had already started to make significant operational changes, which included laying off 300 employees in February and closing hundreds of locations for a rebrand in 2018.
The health crisis, said Marcus, was a catalyst.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to accelerate a restructuring plan for which we had been preparing," Marcus told TODAY via email. "A reduction in workforce is never an easy decision, especially during these unprecedented times."
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Subway isn't the only sub chain facing difficulties amid the ongoing pandemic.
Potbelly, which has 500 locations nationwide, has also been badly affected by the pandemic. In its quarterly earnings report which was made public earlier this month, Alan Johnson, president and CEO of Potbelly Corporation, explained how, in February, the company was on its way to having its "first positive quarterly comp" since 2016.
Not long after, the chain was forced to temporarily close 36 shops in March and is "considering closing up to 100" if the crisis continues.
"The pandemic dramatically impacted our sales and oriented our priorities first around the health and safety of our employees and customers, and second, toward aggressively protecting our balance sheet," Johnson said. "In March, as we abruptly saw our comparable same-store sales drop to -68%, we took immediate and decisive action."
Despite the difficulties, Subway says it's doing what it can to move forward in a new era.
“Our focus remains on ensuring Subway guests continue to get great service and value at every restaurant they visit; our franchise owners, all small business owners, get the full support and tools they need to help them grow and be successful and that we strengthen our overall business performance,” Marcus said.
Marcus would not verify how many locations Subway closed during 2019, but according to Restaurant Business Online, the chain has shuttered 2,000 locations over the past two years. Subway currently operates about 24,000 U.S. locations, most of which are franchised.
As Subway restaurants start to reopen across the country, patrons can expect to find several changes including:
- Employees wearing masks during their shifts.
- Employees will also be required to submit to temperature checks.
- Sandwich toppings will be covered in plastic wrap.
- Social distancing guidelines will be featured prominently in stores.
- Curbside delivery will be available, where possible, at select restaurants.
Earlier this spring, the sandwich chain also started to pivot its business model at some stores, with Subway California locations launching grocery pickup services.