View From the Top

Subway takes the title of the #1 franchise for the 13th time. So what's it really like to wear the crown?

If you ask Fred DeLuca what it's like to be franchise royalty, he'll humbly refer to the entire Subway team as the reason for his company's enormous success. Flattered by the attention and proud of Subway's accomplishments as a whole, DeLuca would probably demur at the regal analogy, but we at Entrepreneur are unrelenting. We want to know-how does it feel to be king?

"When I get a call from Entrepreneur about [our] positioning [in the Franchise 500®], I tell my people it feels like winning the Super Bowl-but this league is a lot harder," says DeLuca. "In football, they only have 32 teams, and you've got 500 teams in your rankings. So it really gives us a good feeling for all the work we put in over the past year."

In the past year, Subway hit 21,444 franchises worldwide. DeLuca has led Subway not just to astronomical business success, but also to cultural-icon status. Today, businesses want to emulate Subway's success. Franchise industry insiders don't ponder who will be the next McDonald's, but who will be the next Subway. And the franchise has even become a pop culture reference-the famed Jared Fogle, aka The Subway Guy, who lost over 200 pounds on the Subway diet, is perhaps one of the more ubiquitous Subway reference points.

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Still, even after catapulting the franchise into the stratosphere as he has, DeLuca's perspective is decidedly unassuming. According to DeLuca, his responsibility as the leader of the number-one franchise in the world is to stay focused. "I see a limited role. From my point of view, my job is just to work hard for our franchisees so they can maintain the position they're in and to grow market share," he says. "I want to make sure that all the people who have invested in Subway have [representatives] working at headquarters who are concerned about the success of the company. I don't really think much beyond that."

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This article was originally published in the January 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: View From the Top.

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