Three Lessons from SUBWAY on Growing Your Practice…

I was at a Subway restaurant and had to wait 15 minutes in line to get my turkey flat bread sandwich. The place was buzzing. With over 37,781 locations in 99 countries, it’s one of the fastest growing franchises in the world.

All this from humble beginnings in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1965. It started with a $1,000 loan from a doctor, Dr. Peter Buck to Subway founder Fred DeLuca, (who wanted to become a medical doctor).  According to the history of Subway on their official website, Fred soon learned the basics of running a business, as well as the importance of serving a well-made, high quality product, providing excellent customer service, keeping operating costs low and finding great locations. These early lessons continue to serve as the foundation for other locations around the world.

The Subway business strategy has evolved with the times, and is indicative of a company listening, responding, implementing and improving their business model in a new economy which you can use on your physical therapy business practice.

I’ve looked behind the curtains and discovered THREE things they do to transform the way consumers think about them. This has allowed them to emerge as one of the most successful franchise systems in the world, and there’s a thing or two to be learned here.

They are a ‘restaurant’ not just a ‘sandwich’ shop

Every physical therapy marketing message positions them as a ‘restaurant’ which is a different category than a ‘fast food place’ or a ‘sandwich shop’. In fact, they’ve taken this message one step further with messages like ‘training restaurant of athletes’ and added a ‘health component’ to their sandwiches. Here’s an image I grabbed from my phone yesterday while I was at Subway.

Consumers get to customize their meals with a range of ever-growing options

The introduction of flat bread sandwiches for low carb consumers, avocado spread for health conscious consumers and seasonal specials gives the consumers the one thing they don’t have with traditional fast food – choice and customization. Choose the exact spread you want, add extra lettuce and skip the olives? Sure.

Re-branding as a ‘weight loss’ food

This campaign helped put Subway on the map very quickly.

Who says a sandwich won’t help you lose weight? Jared Fogle, aka Jared the Subway Guy, an Indianapolis native is now a well known public figure, having transformed his body with subway sandwiches. It’s interesting that Subway didn’t pick a celebrity for this transformation (Weight Watchers does this all the time), but chose a regular guy who is looking for a quick, healthy option to lose weight.

The introduction of ‘heart healthy meals’ certified by the American Health Association helped add consumer credibility and boosted their image as a quick, healthy eating option.

Lessons for your practice?

Three BIG lessons you can learn from Subway success story that is vital to the growth of your practice.

  • Can your clinic be positioned as a health center / wellness spa / mulch-disciplinary facility / body retreat / rejuvenation destination instead of a every other clinic?
  • Can you provide patients with a range of options, so they can ‘customize’ their physical therapy experience? What more can you provide them with before, during and after treatment for them to say “I want more from your clinic”
  • Can you identify one big patient success story who is indicative of all the good work you’ve done in your clinic? (I call this the ‘human billboard’

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