Subway Stock – Is Subway Publicly Traded?

Last Updated on 06/09/2021 by GS Staff

Can you buy Subway stock?

Subway is not a publicly-traded company. You cannot purchase Subway stock since the company is private. It does not have a stock price or trade on an exchange where shares can be purchased.

Who owns Subway?

Subway is owned by Doctor’s Associates Inc., a private company. This business was started in 1966 by Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck that eventually became the company that managed the franchises. It does not own any Subway locations, today. Fred passed away in 2015 but ownership still remains with the DeLuca family. In 1974, the company had 16 submarine sandwich shops in Connecticut. They now have over 40,000 globally.

Was Subway ever a public company?

No, Subway has always been private. This might be surprising to some people given that many powerhouses in the fast-food or quick-serve restaurant industry are public. This includes McDonald’s (MCD), Wendy’s (WEN), Restaurant Brands International (QSR), and Chipotle (CMG) to name a few. However, Subway has never had the need to raise funds by going public through an initial public offering (IPO).

As has been a similar situation with its competitor Jersey Mike’s, Subway’s franchise model has allowed it to remain lean by having relatively low capital investment requirements because the franchisees pick up many of the costs and pay royalty/advertising fees. According to franchisedirect.com, a franchisee will spend approximately $100,050 to $342,400 as an initial investment to open a Subway. The royalty fee is 8% of annual gross sales paid yearly and the advertising fee is 4.5% of total gross sales [source].

The co-founder of Subway, Fred Deluca, explained in a 2010 interview with Nation’s Restaurant News why it didn’t make sense for the company to go public. In that interview, he stated the following:

Fred DeLuca – Subway Co-Founder

“We weren’t quite sure that the goals of public shareholders would be the same as ours and of the franchisees. Franchisees’ goal is to make money at the store level, which is simultaneously good for the whole system. Shareholders may think differently from time to time, so we decided against it.”

— Fred DeLuca, 2010, Nation’s Restaurant News

Of course, DeLuca said the above with the luxury of not having the need to raise capital by going public. There certainly are a lot of headaches with being a public company that DeLuca was well aware of and wanted to avoid to allow his focus to be solely on the business.

Will Subway ever go public?

An argument certainly can be made that the company has been private since it started in 1965, so the odds of seeing a public Subway stock are not likely. However, the mindset of businesses often changes over time. This is particularly true when times are tough.

The relationship between Subway and some of its franchisees is not what it used to be as Subway has recently struggled, particularly during the 2020 pandemic. In April 2021, there was a rumor that Subway would be sold, which Elisabeth DeLuca (the widow of the co-founder, Fred DeLuca) shot down. The rumor came after 100 franchisees wrote a letter to Ms. DeLuca explaining why their franchise dream has turned into a nightmare along with their ideas on changes that would improve the business.

Subway clearly isn’t what it used to be at its peak somewhere around when the now jailed Jared Fogel was pitching his 200+ pound weight loss success by eating a Subway diet. Today, the tensions are high between a number of franchisees and the corporate Subway. Despite Ms. DeLuca’s recent denial of a sale, we wouldn’t be shocked if the company was sold in the future considering its struggles. We also wouldn’t be surprised if Subway one day emerged as a public company. While this is speculation, we would assume it more likely now than when Fred DeLuca was alive and growth seemed unstoppable to many.

How Subway Started

In 1965, a 17-year-old Fred DeLuca borrowed $1,000 from Peter Buck, a friend of the family. DeLuca opened up Pete’s Super Submarines with the loan. In 1966, the two men opened Doctor’s Associates, which seems like an odd name for a company involved in making sandwiches. However, Buck was a doctor (doctoral degree in physics) and DeLuca was an inspiring doctor who opened Pete’s to fund his college. Hence, Buck was the doctor and DeLuca was the associate of Doctor’s Associates.

The shop was renamed “Subway” in 1968. The initial franchise opened in 1974 in Wallingford, Connecticut, and the first international location launched in the small Arab state of Bahrain in 1984. Subway reportedly became the largest submarine sandwich chain in the United States in 1982. It is now the largest in the world with 40,000+ locations, according to the Subway website.

Final Thoughts

You should not expect a Subway stock in the foreseeable future. That is not to say that a public Subway will never happen. At the time of this article, there is no information to suggest the company will be sold or file an IPO to make it public.

The closest competitor to Subway that is publicly traded is Potbelly Sandwich Shop (PBPB) which has struggled recently and is trading at well below its IPO price at $14 per share. If you want exposure to a quick-service restaurant stock, it may be best to research companies like YUM! Brands (YUM), McDonald’s (MCD), and Restaurant Brands International (QSR) for potential investment purposes.


Fred DeLuca Image Credit – mynewsdesk