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Staying Power

Why is Subway still on top? Because of its passionate and involved franchisees, says Subway founder Fred DeLuca.

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This story appears in the January 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Making a sandwich is the easy part. The hard part is being named the number-one franchise in Entrepreneur's Franchise 500� for the 14th time--yet Subway has done it. Is it the sandwiches? The healthy brand image? The company leadership? All those certainly have an impact, but what Subway founder Fred DeLuca really credits for his company's success is the franchisees. "This franchisee energy is really amazing in what it brings to the organization," he says. And since they are so vital to the continued success of Subway, we at Entrepreneur wanted to get a picture of these remarkable franchisees--and see how they have changed since Subway started franchising in 1974.

The type of franchisee Subway attracts today remains very similar to the first franchisees ever to hang their Subway shingles. "I'm not sure that [the franchisee] has changed enormously," says DeLuca. "We sell a single franchise to somebody who wants to get into business, so essentially we're working with first-time business [owners]." If DeLuca had to sketch the typical Subway franchisee today, he'd skew male, he'd be in his 30s and he'd already have been out in the work force for a while. There is also a large percentage of new Americans from countries like India, Korea and Vietnam among Subway franchisees. And interest is as strong as ever--the company receives more than 2,000 inquiries from potential franchisees each week.

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