Subway's highly advertised 1 million sandwich giveaway, which took place across the country yesterday, left crowds of customers disappointed, according to first-hand accounts that popped up on social media.
The last time Subway gave away so much free food was around the same time last year, and while that campaign allegedly didn't go as planned because of weak demand, the chain had the opposite problem this year.
America's biggest sandwich chain has been working on the largest menu update in its history for a year now, dubbing the effort the "Eat Fresh Refresh" campaign, a top-to-bottom reexamination of everything on the menu. Building on that, the latest Subway Series release unveiled an all-new lineup of sandwiches and a completely new way to order—by the number and sans customization.
To promote these new pre-made sandwiches that require no choice-making, the chain announced a one million free sub giveaway would take place "across the nation" on July 12.
But if that sounded almost too good to be true, it's because it was. As customers learned when they tried to nab one of the free sandwiches from the new Subway Series menu, there were several caveats to the deal—some completely foreseeable albeit inconvenient and others totally unexpected and frustrating.
Subway goers across the U.S. were not pleased to be told the promotion was happening and then not be able to receive a free sandwich.
Several blunders came together to create a bottleneck of customers at Subway's restaurants, many of whom ultimately ended up walking away empty-handed.
@SUBWAY I live in Seattle WA and I tried to go to 4 different Subway stores and NONE OF THEM WERE PART OF THE MILLION SUB GIVEAWAY. And only doing the whole promotion for 3 hours, bad form Subway, bad form indeed
— Jimmy Lane Cole (@JimmyLaneCole21) July 12, 2022
So @subway said they were "giving away" 6-inch subs today. This Subway location had a sign on the door saying they weren't doing it. So I went to @mcdonalds instead and got a free 6 piece McNuggets. That's how you make customers happy. https://t.co/T6jmD2jIjy pic.twitter.com/XZkmTkFGjh
— ᘜᘿᘿᖽᐸ ᗩᒪᗩᗷᗩᘻᗩ (@geekalabama) July 13, 2022
For one, the timeframe of the giveaway was somewhat limited. Sandwiches were free between 10 a.m. and noon–which is also an odd time to eat lunch.
Either way, many customers just weren't aware of the restrictions or the fact that only the first 50 guests per location will get a free sub.
#SubwaySeriesMenu It's a shame that all Subways aren't not made to participate in the promotion and give away the 50 free subs. Only gives Subway a tacky image. I was the only person at the store at 10am. So just proves the rest of the city knows this franchise is cheap
— AS (@Bargainsarefun) July 12, 2022
Additionally, some franchises didn't even participate in the promotion, leading to numerous locations turning customers away.
Franchisees refusing to participate in promotional giveaways at Subway is nothing new, as these often end up being financially unsound decisions for the operators.
Last year, Subway compensated the ingredients for the million subs campaign, but not the cost of labor, as we were told by a West Coast operator who spoke to us under the condition of anonymity. "They comped $1.60 cents per sandwich, which is the cost of ingredients, but the labor cost and every other cost was borne by the franchisees," the source said last year.
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For its part, the chain says this year's giveaway was a "huge success," adding that while participation was voluntary, thousands of restaurants took part.
The chain also said that some locations ended up doubling the number of sandwiches they gave away to ensure guests received one and that "initial numbers indicate (they) far exceeded last year's promotion."