Subway, the sandwich chain, is being sold to equity firm Roark Capital in a $9.6 billion deal expected to expand the chain.
Subway made the announcement on Thursday, a bare-bones announcement that doesn’t reveal any details of the pending deal. Roark specializes in franchised restaurants, and already has their fingers in two holding companies which between them own Arby’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jimmy John’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Auntie Anne’s, Jamba Juice, and Cinnabon.
Subway, which has been owned by the founders for nearly 60 years, currently has over 37,000 locations in more than 100 countries. They’re one of the largest restaurant chains in the world. Their sales are at a high coming out of the pandemic, but began exploring the idea of a sale in the interest of expanding still further while modernizing.
CEO John Chidsey, who joined Subway in 2019, said the deal reflects Subway’s long-term growth potential and the value of the brand. Subway plans to continue to modernize restaurants and expand internationally under Roark’s ownership. Subway said its leadership team will remain in place.
The chain has been shifting their practices and priorities to keep some of their dropping market share. In 2021, they refreshed their menu to offer new options, and in 2022, they announced a line of chef-developed sandwiches for customers tired of the choose-each-ingredient model. Recently, they provided their whole chain of U.S. restaurants with deli meat slicers for the first time, part of wanting to build a reputation for fresher ingredients.
It’s too soon to know yet what changes this sale will bring, but Roark is experienced in managing casual service restaurants. The changes will likely be related to modernization, adding still more locations, and possibly changing the image and branding of Subway. Employees of the current locations are braced for the changes, without knowing what they may be.