Fast-food chain Subway is in talks to open its first ever school branch. The famous American sandwich chain is looking to make history and open a franchise at a British school and is currently in talks with the Parrs Wood High School, in the Greater Manchester suburb of Didsbury. The plans are currently reviewing the possibility of opening a concession outlet at the school's sixth-form college.
The plan was revealed after Michael Grove, the Education Secretary, announced that a review of school-dinner provision was going to be carried out by restaurant owners John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby. The school's headteacher told the Manchester Evening News that the talks were at an early stage, but that both parties were interested in how they could improve food provision for sixth-form students. He explained that Subway was just one possibility under review.
The franchise brand, which operates under the 'eat fresh' slogan, offers a wide range of sandwiches with various fillings – including steak and cheese, chicken and bacon, meatball marinara and vegetarian options. However, an MEN straw poll on the newspaper's website indicated that over 80% of readers were against the proposals for the company to open an outlet within the school, where it would be offered unfettered access to nearly 400 student customers.
The School Food Trust spoke to the Manchester Evening News and explained that many schools did use 'serve yourself' salad and pasta bars and that the 'create your own' food service model had shown encouraging results in terms of pupils self-selecting more salad, fruit and vegetables at lunchtime. The Trust explained that schools did have a legal obligation to ensure that they were meeting school-food national standards and that they should explore different routes to achieve this.
Earlier in the year, Fred DeLuca, the Subway president, outlined the company's growth strategy in the UK and Ireland, which involves opening six hundred new stores by 2015. De Luca explained that the UK represented the largest market for the Subway brand outside of North America and the company had a long history of providing budding entrepreneurs with the opportunity to open, operate and manage their own small businesses, providing great food, customer service and job opportunities for the local community.
The firm also appears to have government backing for its plan after signing the pledges of the new Responsibility Deal, which includes measures such as reducing the amount of salt in prepared food. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said that one in six meals is now eaten away from home and many people had little idea of the number of calories they contained. He pointed to Subway as a great example of responsible fast-food provision as the company has signed up to providing nutritional information on food packaging as part of the Responsibility Deal.
Here at FranchiseExpo, we recognise that the subject of school food is complex and tends to attract strong views from different stakeholder groups. However, it's great to see a franchise such as Subway looking at ways to expand its operation in innovative ways, while also showing commitment to the community and its corporate social responsibility agenda through the Responsibility Deal pledge. It will be interesting to see how these talks develop and what type of opportunities open up for franchisors within the public-sector food-provision market.