you are next Subway command could come from a vending machine.
Subway reported strong third-quarter sales on Monday and publicly unveiled its first Grab and Go “smart fridge” stocked with pre-made sandwiches, snacks and drinks. The machine debuted in September at the University of California, San Diego, and the company plans to add more across North America in high-traffic areas like other college campuses, airports and hospitals.
Local franchises will prepare and deliver sandwiches to refrigerators, which are equipped with artificial intelligence and “natural language processing” so customers can choose to order verbally and have a contactless experience. Initial customer reaction has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Subway said in its statement.
Subway is leaning into the grab-and-go. In 2020, the company began selling pre-made sandwiches in regular refrigerators at outlets like casinos, gas stations, and airports. Subway said Monday that the program has been rolled out to 400 locations with “plans for continued growth over the coming year.”
“As more of our customers seek dining experiences to meet their ‘in-the-moment’ needs, the brand’s non-traditional locations and platforms can serve them wherever and whenever they crave Subway,” said Taylor Bennett, vice president of non-traditional development at Subway, in a press release.
It’s just one of many recent new programs from Subway as the company revamps its branding and selection. It recently unveiled the most comprehensive menu overhaul in the company’s nearly 60-year history.
The results so far have been positive: sales at stores open for at least a year rose 8.4% in the third quarter, the privately held company said last month. Over the past 18 months, Subway said it achieved “record sales” at its nearly 20,000 locations in the United States, bolstered by a number of changes, including new sandwiches, soups and store renovations.
Subway attributed its recent success to its new “Subway Series” menu — which has been streamlined to speed up service — and an increase in digital orders.
It also sees a rebound in sales in places that have been hit hard by Covid-19. Sales for the first three quarters of this year in Subway’s “non-traditional” locations – such as airports, colleges and hospitals – increased sales by more than 20%, “indicating a strong recovery in 2022 across all channels affected by the pandemic”.
Fridges could also fill the void left by Subway’s reduction of the physical footprint. The number of locations fell for the fifth consecutive year to 20,746 according to its website.