UK-built ovens spur Subway to success

Subway store

Subway recently handed its prized Vendor of the Year award for 2015 to Manitowoc. FEJ explores how the equipment manufacturer is supporting the franchise chain with new innovation and reveals the integral role of its UK operation in this process.

It is not a very easy task to single out one vendor because there are so many of you that do amazing things for our chain. And each year to pick one is tough when so much great work is done. However, this year’s vendor of the year really stood out. They demonstrate an outstanding level of commitment to the Subway brand, in the supply chain, in quality, in customer service and strategic vision.”

That was how Jan Risi, president of the Independent Purchasing Cooperative (IPC), the franchisee-owned and operated procurement body that sources equipment and goods on behalf of Subway operators, broke the news of Manitowoc’s victory to a room full of global suppliers at Subway’s recent 50th anniversary convention.

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While such awards can sometimes be construed as little more than token gestures, it is certainly anything but where this accolade is concerned. After all, we are talking about a chain that operates more than 43,000 branches across the world, 2,000 of them in the UK and Ireland.

We work very hard to choose the right partners — partners that offer franchisees lower costs and quality products”

Its outlay on equipment totals millions of pounds a year and therefore any supplier it works with must have an international outlook and immerse itself in the operations of the business.

“Manitowoc as a company comes to us with innovations on a regular basis to see if they fit our needs and if it is something that would really benefit the Subway brand,” says Frank Buffone, senior manager of Subway Operations about the relationship. “They bring innovation to the Subway brand that puts us in a better place than we were before they joined the team.”

Manitowoc was one of four suppliers shortlisted for the Vendor of the Year award and the only one from the catering equipment industry — the others being Pacific National Industries, Schreiber Foods and Ventura Foods.

“We work very hard to choose the right partners — partners that offer franchisees lower costs and quality products,” says Brian Wheeler, senior director of equipment and services at IPC.

Developments in two major product areas played a massive part in Subway’s endorsement of its partnership with Manitowoc: ovens built in the Merrychef factory in Sheffield and ice machines supplied by Manitowoc Ice. With the Merrychef Eikon high-speed ovens, Manitowoc worked closely with Subway’s buyers to develop an appliance to exceed their expectations in performance, maintenance and ease-of-use. Touch-screen technology and key energy saving features all came about as a result of dialogue between the two organisations.


All of the Merrychef ovens are built and supplied from the brand’s manufacturing plant in Sheffield, where a senior team co-ordinated with franchisees, IPC and its European counterpart EIPC to establish what they require from a high-speed toaster oven. Following product development, franchisees receive full culinary support and onsite training. “Since 2007 we have developed three successive products for Subway,” explains Simon Lawrence, technical support manager for Merrychef.

“We have incorporated new technology in each one to make it easier for the customer, such as touch-screen technology, energy saving and we have got onboard diagnostics now on the oven to reduce downtime in the event of failure — and that has all come from feedback from the customer.

Indigo Series

The development of Manitowoc Ice’s patented LuminiceGrowth Inhibitor, meanwhile, has helped Subway meet strict sanitisation requirements. Franchisees are now able to extend the cleaning time of the ice machine without food safety concerns, saving time and money. The technology is also expected to save thousands of pounds a year in labour.


Given its enormous global presence, the benefits of product innovation in the Subway kitchen department really do have the potential to be felt in every corner of the world.

Subway shorts

1) Fred DeLuca co-founded the Subway brand in Connecticut, USA, in 1965. As an ambitious 17-year-old high school graduate, he was looking for a way to make enough money to pay for his university tuition and was given the idea of opening a sandwich shop at a family BBQ.

2) There are more than 43,000 Subway stores in 105 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia. All stores are independently owned and operated by franchisees.

3) The UK is the largest market outside North America and the third largest market overall.

4) Earlier this year Subway opened its 2,000th UK store at the Jarman Leisure Park in Hemel Hempstead.

5) Partnerships with the likes of Welcome Break, Euro Garages and Sodexo have helped Subway open 430 UK stores in non-traditional locations, including forecourts, convenience stores and universities.

Tags : catering equipmentManitowocMerryChefQSRSubway
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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