CHICAGO — Despite the downhill economy, a number of top limited-service sandwich chains exhibited growth, according to foodservice consultancy Technomic. In 2007, Subway added nearly a half-billion dollars in revenues and 440 new units over the prior year. Quiznos registered the second-highest sales growth, with $261 million and 178 units, according to Technomic’s new 2008 Technomic "Top 100 Limited-Service Sandwich Chains Restaurant Report".

"Though the economy has moved from bad to worse, the limited-service sandwich segment is holding its own," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic. "Its resilience comes from its ability to provide customers with a range of offerings from low cost to high end. The Top 100 Sandwich chains have displayed an array of tactics for weathering the economic storm — from revising their pricing strategies to making menu offerings more memorable and substantial to renovating their stores."

The study identifies the leading limited-service sandwich chains, analyzes top performers by sales and units, looks at important trends in the segment, and provides insight into where limited-service sandwich opportunities exist.

Other findings include:

* The limited-service sandwich industry totaled $21.2 billion in sales in 2007, of which the Top 100 accounted for $18.8 billion, or 89% of the total.

* Sales for the Top 100 grew 6.4%, outperforming the overall sandwich industry’s growth of 5.7%.

* Unit growth of the Top 100 was up by 1.8% for a total of 38,790 units, compared with growth of 1.6% for the limited-service sandwich industry with a total of 55,610 units. The Top 100 makes up nearly 70% of the industry’s units.

Subway was the category leader with sales of more than $8 billion, which accounted for 43.5% of total Top 100 sales. Arby’s followed with an estimated $3.3 billion in sales, comprising 17.6% of Top 100 sales. Rounding out the Top three is Quiznos Subs with an estimated $1.9 billion in sales, or 10% of the Top 100’s total.

Remaining chains in the Top 100 are much smaller in size. The median size chain had sales of $23.1 million.

Within the limited-service sandwich segment, the Sub, Deli and Sandwich sub-categories represented the greatest number of concepts. Sub-categories with the highest 2007 sales were Sub at $12.2 billion and Roast Beef at $3.4 billion. The Sandwich and Deli sub-categories showed the greatest percentage sales growth, with 19% and 11.1%, respectively.

Within the Top 100 chains, more than a quarter of limited-service sandwich restaurants (27 chains) have implemented online ordering at all or select store locations. Delivery is available at 24 of the Top 100 at some or all stores.

To post your comments on this story, click here: