Here's How Subway is Transforming Digital Ordering

The way people order their favorite foods has been changing in recent years. Technologically savvy brands are finding new ways to offer their customers increased convenience when it comes to purchasing their products.

With 60% of US customers ordering takeout at least once a week, the market is not an insignificant one. The digital ordering and delivery space has grown 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014. Online ordering generates higher levels of customer loyalty as well. Diners who place an online order with a restaurant tend to visit that brand 67% more frequently than those who don't. It's believed that orders placed via smartphone and mobile apps will become a $38 billion industry this year.

As one of the world's most well-known fast food brands, sandwich restaurant Subway understands the value of convenience and has been investing heavily in digital ordering and loyalty programs.


To reach its digital ordering ambitions, Subway has been making smart partnerships. The main one of these has been with the leading digital food ordering platform for the restaurant industry developed by Olo. The Olo solution — known as "Rails" — allows brands such as Subway to seamlessly integrate digital food orders directly into their point of sale and empowers Subway to more effectively handle third party online orders throughout its network of 20,000 US locations.

With many orders originating from third party destinations, Subway needed a way to make sure efficiency and guest experience were maintained as if the customer was ordering from one of its own restaurant associates. The integration Rails allowed the sandwich brand to benefit from accurate menu listings and pricing while experiencing the convenience of automatic order direction into its sales management systems.

"As we explored solutions to manage orders from our third-party marketplaces, Olo stood alone in terms of efficiency, reach and ability to operate at the enterprise-scale necessary for Subway," said Vice President of Digital and Consumer Technology at Subway, Rob Tedesco. "The integration of our systems to the Olo platform went very smoothly, allowing us to vastly improve restaurant operations at thousands of our locations — and without having to build or manage separate integrations for each of our third-party marketplace partners."

The Rails platform was designed to make it simple for restaurant brands to list their products on third-party marketplaces, without the issues of having to manage separate workflows and orders being downloaded to multiple systems. With integration such as this, lag is reduced, order success rates are increased, and faster and more accurate ordering experiences are made possible.

Other features of the Rails platform include a price updater and a menu exporter. The price updater allows Subway to set and adjust pricing separately for each marketplace they work with and the menu exporter notifies marketplace partners when a restaurant makes changes to its menu listings. These solutions make sure everyone has access to the most up to date menu available and reduce the frustration which can accompany people ordering items which are no longer available.

"We're thrilled to partner with Subway in a time when establishing a common digital ordering layer has become crucial for restaurant excellence," said Chief Customer Officer of Olo, Marty Hahnfeld. "Our experience in complex enterprise environments and menu synchronization has helped to make this digital integration a success."

Digital Ordering

Subway has also been making its digital presence more secure by integrating its digital ordering system into its proprietary loyalty scheme — MyWay Rewards.

The integration not only allows customers to add premium ingredients such as bacon and guacamole to their sandwiches but also makes sure they never miss out on points towards their next reward. Through this integration, Subway has recorded an 8% lift in orders since it was completed. Thanks to the personalization made possible with these digital ordering systems and MyWay Rewards, Subway's digital order volume has doubled over the last year.

These developments mark the conclusion of a five-year mission for Subway to overhaul its digital offering and provide its customers with the kind of modern, tech-based, and personalized experience the modern food and beverage space demands. In 2020, there is little point, even for a brand as big as Subway, in sitting back and waiting for customers to come to you. You need to meet them where they are and make sure they can access your brand and products on their preferred channels.

Final Thoughts

Digital ordering has gone from being a preferred added extra to an essential service for restaurant brands. As time goes on, we are likely to see digital become the dominant force when it comes to food ordering, so brands need to be proactive in offering these kinds of experiences now, or risk being left behind by their more innovative peers.

Digital ordering is set to be a hot topic at Digital Food and Beverage 2020, taking place in July at the Hilton Austin TX.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

WBR Insights is the custom research division of Worldwide Business Research (WBR). Our mission is to help inform and educate key stakeholders with research-based whitepapers, webinars, digital summits, and other thought-leadership assets while achieving our clients' strategic goals.

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