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Subway refreshes menu, insists it has 'nothing to hide' amid tuna controversy

·Associate Producer
·4 min read
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Subway on Tuesday announced "really bold changes" to its existing menu in a bid to recapture consumer appetites, as ongoing allegations about the authenticity of its tuna buffet its brand.

On Tuesday, the fast food chain announced "Eat Fresh Refresh," its largest menu update in its 50-plus year history, that will be available in all U.S. locations on July 13th. 

The revamp includes more than 20 menu updates, with 11 new and improved ingredients, six new and returning sandwiches, and four signature sandwiches — including two more bread options, Artisan Italian and Hearty Multigrain.

The company embarked on creating the new bread options back in January 2019 and had them ready to go for summer 2020, but "couldn't launch it in the middle of the pandemic," according to Trevor Haynes, Subway's President of North America. 

In order to best prepare this new lineup, more than 10,000 restaurants will close on July 12th at 6:00 PM Eastern to give the local staff time to prepare. 

'Nothing to hide'

SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 22: A tuna sandwich from Subway is displayed on June 22, 2021 in San Anselmo, California. A recent lab analysis of tuna used in Subway sandwiches commissioned by the New York Times did not reveal any tuna DNA in samples taken from Subway tuna sandwiches. The lab was unable to pinpoint a species in the tuna samples from three Los Angeles area Subway sandwich shops. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 22: A tuna sandwich from Subway is displayed on June 22, 2021 in San Anselmo, California. A recent lab analysis of tuna used in Subway sandwiches commissioned by the New York Times did not reveal any tuna DNA in samples taken from Subway tuna sandwiches. The lab was unable to pinpoint a species in the tuna samples from three Los Angeles area Subway sandwich shops. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

One menu item that won't change, however, is its embattled tuna, which is currently the subject of a California lawsuit that Subway has blasted as "baseless." Meanwhile, a New York Times analysis in June added fuel to the fire after a lab report commissioned by the paper found “no amplifiable tuna DNA" present in a sample.

Subway, however, doubled down on its position, with Haynes insisting the customer favorite "is nothing but 100% wild-caught tuna." At the restaurants, mayonnaise is added when prepared.

Haynes said the Subway team agreed "our tuna doesn't need to be touched, our guests love our tuna, it's a product that we are proud to serve in restaurants." As part of Eat Fresh Refresh, the team will include messaging about proud it is of its tuna product, and emphasize that there is "nothing to hide."

Haynes says this revamp is "really focused" on ensuring that the menu is "contemporary" with options to mix and match for every guests' unique palette. The brand wants to ensure that it continues to evolve with changing tastes, and provide a continuously "better experience for the guests" with both new favorites and old classics.

New menu items include deli-thin sliced ham and turkey, BelGioioso mozzarella, hickory smoked-bacon, smashed avocado with sea salt, and MVP Parmesan Vinaigrette. Sandwiches that will be added include the Turkey Cali Fresh, Steak Cali Fresh and an All-American Club. 

As of now this refresh is only occurring in U.S. locations but may set a trend for the brand globally. 

A Subway spokesperson told Yahoo Finance, "we are currently focused on the U.S. rollout, but as we collect feedback from new and loyal Subway fans alike, we will be staying close with leadership teams around the globe to share our learnings as they consider their own menu refreshes."

Cali Steak Footlong (smashed avocado) (Courtesy: Subway)
Cali Steak Footlong (smashed avocado) (Courtesy: Subway)

Subway partners with DoorDash, revamps app

Alongside the revamped menu, Subway is revamping its app to offer indoor pickup, curbside pickup or home delivery through third party delivery platform DoorDash (DASH). The sprawling chain has a Subway restaurant within five miles of 92 percent of the U.S. population.

"This is what the consumer is looking for, our guests are looking for hyper accessibility to brands," Haynes told Yahoo Finance. This ongoing effort to help franchisees tend to their customers' wants is "aggressively rolling out" across the U.S., adding "thousands" of restaurants every couple of days. 

During COVID he says franchisees were creating their own curbside pickup options with personalized banner signs outside their restaurants. By the end of year, there should be approximately 7,000 restaurants participating in this new digital ordering experience. 

Subway aims to help to attract workers amid labor shortages

In May, the brand launched a digital campaign in an effort to attract 40,000 employees in 30 days across the United States. Haynes says its "really helped" to drive traffic to its career portal for potential applicants, but will be an ongoing effort.

"The pressures are coming off a little bit in some parts of the country, we seem to be finding more staff available." He says Subway franchisee owners are able to get new employees up to speed "pretty quickly," but are most concerned with how they get new talent there in the first place. 

In an effort to speed the transition for franchisee owners, Subway has been working "tirelessly" with supply partners and vendors ahead of the launch.

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at bdipalma@yahoofinance.com. Check out her latest: