In this photo illustration, Subway food is seen on a table at a Subway restaurant on January 12, 2023 in Austin, Texas.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images
Roark Capital is buying Subway, ending more than five decades of family ownership of the sandwich chain and ushering in a new era for the struggling company.
Thursday’s announcement ends a long sales process for the chain, which publicly Started in February. Subway reportedly sought $10 billion, a high price that alienated several potential contenders such as the restaurant group, leaving only private equity firms to participate in the auction. Other reported bidders include TDR Capital and Sycamore Partners.
Subway and Roark did not announce the transaction value.
Roark’s current portfolio includes over a dozen restaurant chains. Subway dwarfs all of these in terms of number of restaurants, and brings in more annual sales than all others except Dunkin’.
Through the holding company Inspire Brands, Roark owns Dunkin’, Baskin-Robbins, Sonic, Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Jimmy Johns. Positioned separately under Focus Brands, the firm also owns Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Cinnabon, Jamba, McAllister’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Schlotzsky’s. Roark also invested $ 200 million in it Cheesecake Factory To help save the struggling chain from bankruptcy in the early days of the Covid pandemic.
Subway has been trying to turn its business around under the leadership of CEO John Chidsey, who joined the company in 2019. The company has revamped expanded its menu, recruited new franchisees and invested in technology. In the first half of the year, its same-store sales rose 9.8%, which suggests the turnaround may be taking hold.
“This transaction reflects Subway’s long-term growth potential and the substantial value of our brand and our franchisees around the world,” Chidse said in a statement Thursday.
Founded in 1965 by Fred Deluca and Peter Buck, Subway grew from a single sandwich shop in Connecticut to a global restaurant giant.
But the company’s sales have fallen for nearly a decade. Its popular $5-foot long sandwich deal and aggressive growth put pressure on the franchisee’s profits. The chain was further hit by the high-profile lawsuit of former spokesman Jared Fogle and the death of CEO DeLuca, both of which occurred in 2015.
According to franchise disclosure documents, Subway will end 2022 with about 20,600 locations in the US, down from its peak of 27,100 in 2015. Although the chain is still closing franchised locations, the pace has slowed down considerably. The chain closed 571 units last year, down from the more than 1,600 restaurants that closed in 2020.
After his death, half of DeLuca’s company was left to his family. Buck, who died in 2021, bequeathed his legacy to a charity run by his sons. chidse told restaurant business online He convinced both families to consider selling the company.