Subway Saturation: Subway leads Chicago’s fast food overload
Published: Friday, April 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
There are more than 100 subway locations in Chicago, and whether that’s referring to El stops or Subway restaurants, it’s still correct: El stops barely edge out Subways 144 to 118. But one place where the sandwich restaurants outnumber El stops is the DePaul’s oft-frequented Jackson Red Line stop, where there are seven different Subways within a quarter mile radius, compared to just five actual El stops.
Talk about fast food.
Subway isn’t the only franchise with an almost absurdly high concentration around DePaul’s Loop campus. There are five Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, two Starbucks and two Mc¬Donald’s in the same quarter mile area. Subway, however, is the chain champion of DePaul’s section of “Loop University.” The distance between the Subway location at 236 S. State St. and the location at 60 E. Jackson Blvd. is a mere tenth of a mile.
With the potential for Subway over-saturation, one might think this could turn customers away from the sandwich giant. DePaul junior Ali Kaspar, a Management Information Systems major with a family history of owning several franchise restaurants, said that it makes sense to flood the congested Loop area.
Subway Locations by Country
#1 United States - 19,467
#2 Canada - 2,093
#3 Australia - 876
#4 United Kingdom - 564
#5 Germany - 296
#6 Mexico - 292
*Information courtesy of nationmaster.com
“I would make the argument for convenience,” Kaspar said. “A quarter mile in the city can actually take a while to get through on mad days. Everyone is rushing somewhere; you stop into the nearest place. If Subway is dominating them all, everyone’s eating Subway.”
According to Kaspar, chains like Subway make the most money near colleges in cities, making the Loop a prime target. “It’s a good business plan, but bad for people who don’t want Subway for every meal,” Kaspar laughed.
The Loop’s high traffic may necessitate multiple locations, but can Chicago’s suburbs maintain the same level of internal competition? Dave Jedlecki, a four-year “sandwich artist” of a Subway in Orland Park, knows what it’s like to be in competition with another Subway that’s nary a subway apart: there’s another ubiquitous sandwich restaurant located in the same shopping plaza as his own.
Despite the proximity, and even the fact that there are “at least five Subways in Orland Park” alone, Jedlecki holds no ill will towards his rivals.
“Personally, I don’t care,” Jedlecki said. “[There are] people that have been coming to my Subway for years. I think a big part of it is the staff at my store. Everyone that works there is pretty friendly and none of us are really stingy with the ingredients. We just throw a lot of crap on the subs so we have a bunch of regular customers.”
Subway’s appeal is self-explanatory, at least to Jedlecki. “Sandwiches are pretty tasty,” Jedlecki said, adding that he’s seen more Subways pop up and an increase in sales ever since Subway introduced the five-dollar foot-long sandwich selection.
“Ever since [then], our store has gotten way busier,” Jedlecki said. “We have these hourly sales readings that we’ll look at, and on hours when we’re really busy, we could make like 50 to 100 subs in an hour.”
Likewise, Subway employee Natasha Payne—who works at the Subway on 60 E. Jackson Blvd.— said that she’s never felt any animosity toward the other Subway just one block away, and that she hardly ever thinks about them.
“I love Subway, before I worked here I always ate here because it’s healthy,” Payne said, who has been working at the location for a year.
Payne may continue to eat at Subway due to employee discounts, but surely Subway owners don’t, right?
Feroz Fazal, the co-owner of 28 Chicagoland Subway locations with his brother Murad, was eating a Subway soup during our interview. “I eat it quite often,” Fazal said. He and his brother own four of the seven Subways within the Jackson Red Line quarter mile, including the location Payne works at. “I like all my stores,” Fazal said, politely avoiding naming a favorite.
“Is there saturation? Hell yes,” Fazal said. “I have a store that I own that I can see from another.” The high foot traffic in the Loop, however, keeps his restaurants prosperous.
“We’re waiting to open new locations, we’ve been so successful,” Fazal said. “We would have to be the number one Sub¬way franchise owner in the Chicagoland area.”