Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

Currently: 84° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Subway ‘crisis’: Is the footlong sub really 11 inches?

Image

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Subway chicken breast sandwich and water are shown on a kitchen counter in New York.

NEW YORK — What's in an inch? Apparently, enough missing meat, cheese and tomatoes to cause an uproar.

Subway, the world's largest fast food chain with 38,000 locations, is facing widespread criticism after a man who appears to be from Australia posted a photo on the company's Facebook page of one of its footlong sandwiches next to a tape measure that shows the sub is just 11 inches.

More than 100,000 people have "liked" or commented on the photo, which had the caption "Subway pls respond." Lookalike pictures popped up elsewhere on Facebook. And The New York Post conducted its own investigation that found that four out of seven footlong sandwiches that it measured were shy of the 12 inches that makes a foot.

The original photo was no longer visible by Thursday afternoon on Subway's Facebook page, which has 19.8 million fans. A spokesman for Subway, which is based in Milford, Conn., said Subway did not remove it.

Subway also said that the length of its sandwiches may vary slightly when its bread, which is baked at each Subway location, is not made to the chain's exact specifications.

"We are reinforcing our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure our offerings are always consistent no matter which Subway restaurant you visit," read an e-mailed statement.

The Subway photo — and the backlash — illustrates a challenge companies face with the growth of social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Before, someone in a far flung local in Australia would not be able to cause such a stir. But the power of social media means that negative posts about a company can spread from around the world in seconds.

"People look for the gap between what companies say and what they give, and when they find the gap — be it a mile or an inch — they can now raise a flag and say, 'Hey look at this,' I caught you," said Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates in New York.

Subway has always offered footlong sandwiches since it opened in 1965. A customer can order any sandwich as a footlong. The chain introduced a $5 footlong promotion in 2008 as the U.S. fell into the recession, and has continued offering the popular option throughout the recovery.

An attempt to contact someone with the same name and country as the person who posted the photo of the footlong sandwich on Subway's Facebook page was not returned on Thursday.

But comments by other Facebook users about the photo ran the gamut from outrage to indifference to amusement. One commenter urged people to "chill out." Another one said she was switching to Quiznos. And one man posted a photo of his foot in a sock next to a Subway sandwich to show it was shorter than a "foot."

"I've never seen so many people in an uproar over an inch. Wow," read one Facebook post. "Let's all head to McDonald's and weigh a Quarter Pounder," suggested another poster.

The Subway footlong photo is just the latest in a string of public relations headaches that were caused by a negative photo or event about a company going viral.

Last year, a Burger King employee tweeted with a picture of someone standing in sneakers on two tubs of uncovered lettuce. Domino's Pizza employees posted a video on YouTube of workers defacing a pizza in 2009. And a KitchenAid employee last year made a disparaging remark about President Obama using the official KitchenAid Twitter account.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 3 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. The people defending Subway appear to like being cheated of what they were supposed to get. If a company advertises a size or weight for a product than anything less is fraud.

  2. What I notice--like a foot long stick in my eye--with restaurants (fast food or otherwise) is the disparity between any food product and its photo.

  3. Before we draw the wrong conclusions. Most people are not aware there are tare allowances in the food industry. FDA/USDA sanctioned size variants that are acceptable. Meat portions, calorie counts, storage temps are some examples. Interesting to see how this will play out. My bet is on weight vs length. The bread dough portion will conform to the manufacture's weight thus will be in compliance. This will be determined to be the only valid control point as each Subway location could over or under proof the rolls thus creating uneven sizing. The term "footlong" is only used so the customer has a relative reference. Would be a marketing nightmare to sell "60 oz BMT". The argument will be, "footlong" is not a legal food definition. Subway merely uses that particular word (rather than say "extra large) to identify the largest sandwich on their menu. Not much different than restaurants that serve only two drink sizes but call then medium and large.