Shreyas Kulkarni

Self-aware Subway seeks to comfort Vishy and his ilk with a new menu

Personalising your sub is a staple, but it intimidates many. The brand wants to remedy this trepidation, while holding on to its identity.

Vishwanathan ‘Vishy’ Anand – whose chess prowess and accomplishments have made him an expert in quick and logical thinking – seems to be struggling over what should go into his Subway order. A new ad, featuring him, focusses on this long-observed aspect of the Subway brand.

The ability to personalise a ‘sub’, which separates Subway from the rest of the quick service restaurant (QSR) brands, ends up harming it as well.

Knowing what should go into your Subway order, is an art perfected over time. Starting with the kind of bread, vegetables and sauces, regular consumers of the American QSR brand, know the drill all too well.

But many don’t. “The ones who don’t, come and go away thinking that it is not for them. Others say, ‘I don’t even know how to answer these questions.’ They then end up going to the QSR right next door and order a burger,” remarks Mayur Hola, chief marketing officer, Culinary Brands (parent company of Subway South Asia, Lavazza, and Fresh & Honest).

‘Hotsellers' is a new menu of eight subs that doesn’t require questioning from the sandwich artist before assembly. Just 'point, pick and enjoy,’ explains the voice-over in the ad made by the advertising agency Moonshot, a newly minted agency from Devaiah Bopanna who wrote the ad along with Tanmay Bhat, Puneet Chadha, and Deep Joshi.

The ad stands out because it takes a light-hearted yet poignant stance on the worry which plagues many Subway consumers compared to the run-of-the-mill QSR ads that only focus on slow-mo shots of the food.

“We want to make sure that we have something which cuts through, and makes the point,” Hola remarks about the ad.

The menu aims to make Subway more accessible to the ‘masses’, who find it quite intimidating. “Subway appeals to a sort of niche audience,” states Hola.

The brand intends to, using the new menu, spread its reach, while continuing to cater to its existing customer base with the classic subs. The new menu is a part of a strategy that wants to make the brand among “the top two or three QSRs in the country.”

"Our growth spurt will come from the small and big cities, with the former leading the race going forward," he says.

The brand always runs trials before introducing a food item. When it ran the ‘Hotsellers’ trail at around 100 stores across the country, “cities like Lucknow embraced it instantly and the sandwiches sold out over a weekend,” reveals Hola.

The eight subs in the new menu include Paneer Achari, Crunchy Mexican, Chilli Cheese, Italian Pesto, Pepper Chicken, Chicken Tikka Achari, Spicy Chick’n Cheese, and Great American BBQ.

Hola shares that the brand had asked the sandwich artists at its 700-800 stores across the country about the most popular fillings (called ‘proteins’ in Subway speak) ordered by the customers.

International flavours were added to the proteins, because Subway is a global QSR giant.

So, there are customer favourite proteins, such as paneer and aloo patty (found in chilli cheese), as well as international flavours like pesto. 

“Some of the ingredients (proteins and cheese) cost more than others,” says Hola. This explains why the Hotsellers menu costs more than the regular classic subs.

"It's a better-balanced sub if we were to make it," he remarks over the habit of stuffing a regular sub with everything available.

The most affordable Hotsellers are the Chilli Cheese and Chicken Tikka Achari, at Rs 269 each.

Both have the same description on Zomato barring the protein: multigrain toasted sub with (paneer or chicken tikka), achari mayo, pickled onion, capsicum, tomato and chilli mayo.

On the other hand, a regular Aloo Patty sub costs Rs 209, and Chicken Slice sub is priced at Rs 249.

Unlike the regular subs, a customer cannot customise a Hotseller.

Self-aware Subway seeks to comfort Vishy and his ilk with a new menu

However, they can choose 'add ons' only and they will cost an additional sum.

Another in-the-making addition to the Hotsellers menu, is the in-the-works Subway delivery app. Right now, one can order from Subway through food delivery apps like Zomato and Swiggy.

The real question he says is: "Will there ever be a successful model for QSR brands outside of Domino's to be able deliver themselves?"

"I can tell you that there will definitely be some sort of digital touch point in the future," he signs off.

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