Although sub and sandwich shops offer some of the best growth opportunities in fast food today, there are signs that the category is not what is use to be. Subway's rapid growth in recent years put sub sandwiches on the fast-food map and served to attract tremendous attention as well as investment dollars into this category. In part due to the increased competition, fewer operations and franchise prospects today view that name-brand sub shop as the easy way to success, compared with a couple of years ago. Subway's growth in recent years is due in part to popular menu innovations, including new breads and new sauces. But a chunk of the credit goes to a wildly successful marketing campaign that the company nearly missed. In the late 1990s, Subway founder Fred DeLuca noticed a spike in sales at restaurants around Houston. The reason: a local ad agency had noticed seven sandwiches on the menu with a relatively low 6 grams of fat or less, and built an ad campaign called "7 under 6." The message worked, and the chain eventually rolled the concept out nationwide, positioning Subway as the healthful alternative to burgers and fries. "And then," DeLuca said, "Jared comes along." Jared Fogle, a college student who had been overweight most of his life, noticed the 7 Under 6 campaign and shed 245 pounds sticking to a diet made up primarily of low-fat Subway sandwiches. In 1999, Fogle's mother wrote DeLuca a letter of thanks, and DeLuca immediately saw marketing gold. But others in the organization weren't so sure -- individual cases of extreme weight loss are typically the province of snake-oil diet pills. Mrs. Fogle's letter ended up in the trash. But Fogle's college newspaper ran a story on his remarkable weight loss, which prompted an article in Men's Health magazine, a copy of which landed in the mailbox of a Subway franchisee in Chicago. "He said, Let's call this kid. Maybe he can make an ad for us here in Chicago, "DeLuca said. Fogle agreed, and...
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