Subway Café concept expands into California

Subway Restaurants' Subway Café concept has expanded into the California market. The first opened in September in downtown San Diego, and another is set to open Nov. 16 in Mission Hills.

Raghu and Rohit Marwaha, owners of the new Subway Café in San Diego, said the downtown store has far exceeded sales projections since its opening. The Marwahas also will operate the Mission Hills unit.

Subway Café features a coffeehouse ambience, an expanded menu, and Seattle's Best coffee offerings including espresso drinks, lattes and frozen blended beverages. It also includes amenities such as WiFi, and DIRECTV.

"Customers can grab a low-fat sub and a coffee drink anytime," says Raghu Marwaha. "It is not uncommon to have a rush of customers at 2 a.m. on the weekends."

Subway Café also boasts a bakery case with a variety of desserts and other goods not typically available in a Subway sandwich unit. Some café operators may even offer a wider variety of salads and sandwiches. The menu choices vary from location to location.

"In just a few weeks, we've become a magnet for customers in the Gaslamp Quarter who want a comfortable place to relax and surf the internet," said Rohit Marwaha. "We are also hearing rave reviews from customers about our healthy breakfast options that are made to order. We have every expectation that our Mission Hills location will be a huge success as well."

The Subway Café concept, which is still in a test stage, was launched by longtime Subway franchisee Larry Feldman in 2008 in an office building in Alexandria, Va. It has since expanded to about 20 locations, according to Subway spokesman Les Winograd.

Even though the first café unit opened three years ago and there are about 40 in the pipeline the company anticipates keeping Subway Café in test phase for quite some time.

"We're always cautious whenever you're looking at something that will cost franchisees additional investments," said Cindy Kopazna, who oversees tests and special projects as part of Subway's research and development department. "This idea is more development driven than product driven, but with the combination of our brand strength and having an upscale décor and more offerings, it's very attractive for many."

Read more about franchising and growth.

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