The Subway Effect

How life gets better without anyone noticing

Matthew Kent


Image adapted from photo by Matheus Bardemaker on Unsplash

For a good portion of my childhood, Subway was my favorite fast food restaurant. And I wasn’t alone.

The chain exploded in popularity sometime in the late 90’s or early 2000’s.

You could get $5 footlongs. Jared Fogle was blowing everyone’s mind with how much weight he lost eating nothing but fast food. The endless customization was a novelty. All these factors came together to make Subway a sensation.

But it’s popularity has been waning. I’ve been noticing it in my own life. I basically never ask my family if they’re in the mood for Subway. In fact, if they ask me about it, I’m likely to counter with a different suggestion.

So what happened? Maybe the quality went down. Maybe I got sick of it. Or maybe, there are just better options out there.

The Fast Food Landscape of the 90's

Here’s what you need to understand about the fast food environment I grew up in: Burger chains were super popular. So were pizza chains. Everything else, not so much.

So imagine you want to grab something quick and your best options are McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s.

In that environment, when you discover a chain that will make a sandwich right in front of you and put as many fresh veggies as you want on it, it seems almost too good to be true.

So at the turn of the millennium, it’s not like Subway was competing with super high quality food. And it turns out that the competition makes all the difference.

The Rise of Competition

I would rather have Jersey Mike’s than Subway. I would rather have Firehouse Subs than Subway. I would rather have Jimmy John’s than Subway. Heck, I would rather have Which Which than Subway.

It’s not that Subway is bad, it’s just that the competition is better.

It’s easy to be successful when you’re the only one selling fresh subs and everyone else is selling burgers, pizza, and fried chicken. But it’s really hard to maintain that success when you’re the fifth-best sub shop in town.



Matthew Kent

Done settling for average. Now I have my sights set on awesome 😎 Get “The Ultimate Daily Checklist,” my free ebook on productivity: