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Today, here in a part of the UK, it’s Subway Customer Appreciation Day. From 11am until 7pm on Thursday February 6 2020, Subway devotees and new converts to the sandwich chain alike can grab a free 6-inch sub from some selected stores when they buy a large dispensed drink or bottle of water – and if this year follows the same pattern as previous years, customers will be going crazy for the offer!
Subway first started to celebrate their Customer Appreciation Day here in the UK back in 2017. The franchise brand says it’s their way of saying thank you to their loyal customers. This year there’s a big caveat though. This Customer Appreciation Day promotion is only running in the East Anglia region of England, meaning that it’s only running in a reported 209 stores out of around 2,500 UK-wide Subway outlets.
The sandwich franchise chain has a significant history of using freebies and promotions to entice customers into their stores. On Blue Monday 2020 in the UK Subway gave away free cookies to registered members of their Subcard loyalty scheme, and in summer 2019 they launched their new loaded wrap with a giveaway at participating stores. The launch of the new mobile app in Australia saw 100,000 lucky customers receive a free meal
But whilst the brand clearly continues to view promotions such as this as commercially viable and an effective marketing tool, there’s no doubt that its franchisees don’t all share that view. The franchisee revolt on the back of the $4.99 footlong promotion back in 2017 is well documented and shows that Subway franchisees aren’t afraid to fight back against promotions that they consider not to be in their best interests. And this presumably is why only a small proportion of UK branches are taking part in today’s event.
Any franchisor has a continued responsibility its franchise network to continue to drive the brand forward, raise awareness, to keep the brand name up and out there among its competitors, and most importantly drive consumer traffic to its franchise branches. How the franchisor chooses to do this, of course, varies significantly from brand to brand, industry to industry. Free promotions such as the one running today are a well used mechanism in the fast-food industry to increase sales and create a social media buzz.
However, as with any initiative coming from the top of any business, clear communication and a planned and measured approach is key to getting franchisees on board. Franchisors must ensure that any promotions are metrics-driven, deliver a measurable Return on Investment and that results are shared with franchisees across the board. Having that information readily available to demonstrate how taking part in promotions can impact their bottom line are the cold, hard facts that franchisees are really interested in and is what will garner their support, enthusiasm and willing participation. And of course, wholesale franchisee network participation is the key to a really successful and “wow” promotion that will reap benefits across the board for both franchisor and franchisee.
So whilst there’s clearly no doubt that selected Subway customers are going to appreciate their free lunch on Customer Appreciation Day, the jury seems still to be out on franchisee appreciation for free food giveaways. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as we say here in the UK – or more likely in the number of subs eaten and the resulting sales figures for franchisees going forward!