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Five Dollar Footlongs: the History of Subway’s Game-Changing Promotion

It’s hard to imagine Subway without Five Dollar Footlongs, but it was just 2008 (almost 35 years after the brand began franchising) when the sandwich franchise introduced its now-ubiquitous promotion nationwide. A combination of lucky timing and infectious marketing made the chain’s sub sandwiches earn a place in the ranks of America’s top fast food items.

Subway's Five Dollar Footlong Promotion dates back to 2004

The origin of the $5 footlong sandwich traces back to 2004, when an owner of two Subway franchises within the Jackson Memorial hospital in Miami, FL noticed that sales were slow on weekends. Stuart Frankel began selling foot- long sandwiches for $5 on weekends and saw that sales shot up almost immediately without him having to sell the subs at a loss. It was perfect timing: the promotion started just as the economic downturn hit Florida’s economy, and frugal consumers raised his sales volume. The $5 footlong deal became so popular that two other nearby Subway stores started offering it.

In another stroke of luck, the $5 footlong sandwich deal grew in popularity at the same time the nationalSubway franchise was searching for a new ad campaign to replace the decade-old Jared Fogle commercials, as well as competing with other fast food chains' dollar menus. In March 2008, Subway began offering the Five Dollar Footlongs as a short-term promotion to end in May, but since it was so successful, Subway made it a permanent staple of its value menu in one form or another.

The advertising campaign for Subway’s Five Dollar Footlongs wasn’t luck, but sheer campy genius. The first commercials were nonsensical and highly literal, but drilled “$5” and “one foot-long” into customers’ brains. The jingle, “five, five, five dollar foot long…” was an instant hit as the commercials repeated the phrase as many times as could be crammed into a thirty second spot. A lesson in viral marketing: the commercials were so fun and catchy that they spawned various internet parodies and fans’ versions. The purposely low-brow TV commercials and infectious jingle may have been as instrumental to the success of Subway as the $5 deal itself.

How Do You Pay for a Franchise?

Whether you’re purchasing a whopper from Burger King or joining the Burger King franchise system, the old mantra holds true: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. When you first get started running a franchise you need to pay a fee to allow you to enter into that franchise. These fees are the largest fees that you will normally pay a franchisor and typically range between $5,000 and $1,000,000 depending on the franchise. The franchisor charges this fee as a way to recoup the costs of expanding the franchise and to continue to grow. From a franchisee perspective, this is a major outlay and can take a long time to make back, but is a necessary step. Aspiring business owners must understand how much capital is available to them so they can ascertain how much they can afford. The cash you have at your disposal is known as liquidity, and there are numerous ways to increase your liquidity above the balance in your bank account. As a result, many people don’t realize how much capital they actually can use for investments, like launching a franchise branch. We’ll run through some of those methods below.

Understanding and Making Proper Use of Trademark Symbols

There seems to be a lot of confusion amongst early-stage business owners concerning use of the various trademark symbols (TM, SM, and (R)). This article addresses when to use which symbols, and when not to use any of the symbols at all.

Franchise Hurdles

The first point I made ties into this, but you need to make sure you’ve done your research before you go ahead and sign a franchising agreement. And that doesn’t just mean from a financial perspective. There are so many other aspects in running a franchise that you need to understand before you get started. Most of this information can be found in the Franchise Disclosure Documents. Some of the most important things you should take a look at would be any legal issues the franchisor might have and the churn rate of franchises. Both of those could potentially be pretty significant red flags that might make you want to reconsider whether or not you want to open that franchise.