Subway's unit opening count for August and September was tallied at more than 400, further solidifying the chain as the largest in the world with more than 35,300 locations.
Of particular note in this recent report was the number of new "Eco Restaurants" in the system. Four were opened in those two months alone, bringing the total number to 14.
The first such restaurant opened in November 2007.
"Before the 2007 opening, we determined we needed to work on the efficiencies of our stores as we build out and decided it would be good to go through a LEED certification process," said Elizabeth Stewart, who heads the chain's corporate social responsibility efforts.
Initially, a franchisee in Florida earned the LEED certification in conjunction with the U.S. Green Building Council. Subway created its own green certification process, with less stringent criteria more fitting of the diverse location options within its extensive system.
Two more of these Eco Restaurants were opened in 2007. Two opened in 2008, one opened in 2009 and four opened in 2010. Stewart said the idea behind Subway's Eco Restaurant program was simple: It reflects the brand's commitment to social responsibility.
"When you look at what LEED is trying to do, they're trying to improve efficiency and sustainability and social responsibility. Here we are as a restaurant chain developing throughout the world and we thought something like this would fit our system well as we grow," Stewart said.
Each "Eco Restaurant" is designed with green elements that reduce energy, water and waste consumption. This bodes well for the 100-percent franchised chain, yielding greater opportunities to save money, said Les Winograd, spokesperson for Subway.
Some of the options offered (and some now mandated) by Subway include:
- EnergyStar-rated equipment, such as refrigerators, ice machines and freezers;
- High-efficiency HVAC systems;
- High efficiency lighting program. Stewart said Subway is shifting to LED lighting, but is unable to predict a concrete date for the full transition;
- Low-flow faucets and dual flush toilets; and
- Motion light sensors.
"We offer options when franchisees design their store based on what's relevant for that store. For example, you wouldn't put a solar light tube in your unit if it was part of a strip mall," Stewart said.
Some franchisees have gone even further in their green efforts, adding automatic water shutoff sensors, electric sub-metering systems to keep temperatures as constant as possible, and recycling programs depending on what is available by municipality.
One Eco Restaurant, in Kokomo, Ind., was even presented with the Lugar Patriot Energy Award, recognized for being constructed entirely from recycled stone.
Similar to LEED, franchisee support
The criteria for consideration as an Eco Restaurant are loosely based on the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification. Of the 14 current green Subways, four are officially LEED certified, while three are pending certification.
Subway, however, offers its own "Eco Restaurant" certification, a designation displayed in the appropriate stores.
Subway supports franchisees interested in greening their units by offering information packets that include cost benefits.
"We can't present quantifiable data because the savings vary so much depending on restaurant location. But we regularly communicate to our franchisees the estimated savings of making these efforts, and try to motivate them on how to improve efficiency. This is really a good business practice, as it improves operating efficiencies and profitability," Stewart said.
Subway has seen more interest in this option, even though the actual adoption has been slow. The chain does not have a stated goal for the number of Eco Restaurants it plans to have open within the next few years.
"We simply want to continue to encourage our franchisees to use their best sustainable business practices and offer the option to build or remodel an eco-store," Stewart said.
Winograd said more franchisees are becoming attracted to the idea as the trend takes hold with consumers.
"Customers really appreciate restaurants and brands that make these efforts," he said.
Data released last year by research firm Technomic confirms this, as 70 percent said they are more likely to dine at a certified green restaurant over one that is not.
Just part of Subway's sustainability efforts
Adding more Eco Restaurants to its giant system is a minor part of Subway's overall sustainability efforts. The company presents Sustainability Awards to chosen vendors each year, recently installed greener menu panels, uses 100-percent recycled napkins, implemented a reusable meal bag program for its Fresh Fit for Kids meals and more.
"We have made a commitment to make our restaurants and operations more environmentally responsible," Stewart said. "As the largest restaurant chain in the world, in terms of number of locations, we know we can make a real difference and are working towards that goal."
Current Eco Restaurants
A current list of Eco Restaurants in the Subway system and their opening/certification date include:
- Kissimmee, Fla., LEED Silver, November 2007
- St. Helens, Ore., December 2007
- Keiser Station, Ore., December 2007
- La Place, La., Eco Restaurant Silver, September 2008
- Chapel Hill, N.C., LEED Certified, August 2008
- Love's Park, Ill., September 2009
- Loveland, Ore., 2010
- Cary Park, N.C., LEED Certified, 2010
- Durham, N.C., LEED Certified, 2010
- Chicago, 2010
- Kokomo, Ind., pending LEED Silver, 2011
- North Haven, Conn., two pending LEED Certification, 2011
- France, 2011
Check out some of Subway's Eco Restaurants here.
Read more about sustainability.