Which restaurant chain has the maximum number of establishments? Contrary to what most people may think, it is not Starbucks, KFC, Burger King, or McDonald’s. It is Subway. This extremely popular American restaurant chain owned by Doctor’s Associates, Inc. is the largest food chain in the world, with more than 36,804 franchisees in 100 nations around the world.
So, what makes them different and more demanding than other fast-food chains?
Unlike most of its competitors, Subway has a healthier menu and catering service. In general, their meals have a decent amount of fiber and protein and are considerably low in sugar, although many of them are also stuffed with sodium and saturated fat. So, while not every Subway meal is healthy, if you know how to choose your bread, toppings, and dressings, you can enjoy a relatively healthy and satisfying meal. It is this unique and diversified approach to food that they have also applied in their branding techniques. Before we get into the details of the exemplary Subway logo and its evolution, let’s take a quick look at the company itself.
The Emergence and Rise of the Subway Restaurant Chain
In 1965, Fred DeLuca, a 17-year-old boy in Connecticut, United States, wanted to attend college and medical school, but he lacked funding. While looking for a way to finance his education, he started a sandwich store in partnership with a family friend, Peter Buck. Buck noticed the craze for a new sandwich shop in their town and lent him $1000, equivalent to $8000 in today’s times. That same year, they launched Pete’s Super Submarines in Bridgeport.
It’s said that since Fred was searching for a way to back his potential medical studies and Peter already held a doctorate in Physics, they formed a partnership they named Doctor’s Associates (in 1966), even though it had nothing to do with any medical association. The restaurant was a big hit. The duo sold over 300 sandwiches on the very first day. In the next two years, DeLuca and Buck opened four new stores. The BMT was the chain’s best-selling item, which was promoted as the “Biggest, Meatiest, Tastiest” sandwich ever. It also sold a miniature version of the submarine known as the Snak, popularly known as the 6-inch sandwich today.
DeLuca focused on selling healthy sandwiches made from fresh bread and other ingredients from local bakeries. Commercials claimed that each sandwich was a wholesome meal loaded with fresh meat, vegetables, and flavorsome ingredients. Submarine sandwiches, popularly known as subs or hoagies, had a huge demand in New Jersey, New York, and other nearby areas. DeLuca aimed at selling similar subway sandwiches but with more options than the regular Italian cold cuts. They changed the eatery’s name to Pete’s Subway and subsequently to Subway in 1968.
Despite their efforts and several achievements, DeLuca and Buck failed to start as many branches as they wanted. Ultimately, they had to rely on the franchise system. The brand reached the west coast of the United States in 1978 and reached England in 1996. Today, there are approximately 41600 Subway restaurants worldwide (as in 2019).
From the very beginning, the duo’s main objective was “Think Big.” They dreamt of opening 32 restaurants very soon, but they realized that they couldn’t reach their target unless they franchised their chain. Their friend Brian Dixon was their first franchisee. By 1982, Subway had 300 restaurants across the nation. The duo soon began searching for overseas opportunities and inaugurated its first international store in Dubai.
Subway Logo Evolution
The famous Subway logo as we see it today was first designed in 1968, which was slightly improved over the years. However, the original version of the logo was created in 1965 when the company was named “Pete’s Super Submarines” after one of its co founders.
1965 – 1968
The very first visual identity for Subway consisted of bold and vivid letters in pale blue and red, placed against a white backdrop. The left section of the logo had an oversized “Pete’s” in a bold and conventional sans-serif typeface, whereas the right section featured capitalized red lettering in a handwritten font with separate edges and clean lines.
1968 – 1969
As the brand name was changed from Pete’s Subway to Subway in 1968, a new logo was also introduced in the same year. Although they typically used a signature emblem based on the brand name to create a strong identity, this time they used various colors and a shape to resemble their sandwiches. It was a stylized “Subway” inscription in yellow, featuring a modern and seamless sans-serif typeface.
The “S ” and “Y” of the “SUBWAY” had long and curved tails with sharp arrowheads. The lettering had a white and yellow color palette with a black or green backdrop, depending on the version. All the subsequent versions of the Subway logo will be based on this logo design, which was in use for only one year.
1969 – 2002
In this version, the logotype had thickened lines and the color palette consisted of yellow and white, visually dividing the brand name into two sections. The new lettering was placed against a solid black background, which was horizontally extended and had rounded sides. Sometime later, the brand introduced two additional color schemes for the same logo design: white and yellow lettering on a green background; green and yellow wordmark against white setting.
2002 – 2016
The 2002 version of the Subway logo featured a bold and italicized sans-serif logotype with the letters attached. It still had a white and yellow palette, but instead of a dark background, the characters gained a sleek yet bold green outline.
Another version of the logo, designed in 2015, featured the same typeface style as on the earlier logo, but with a twist. This time, the letters were green and had thinner lines with some space in between. It was a bright and friendly depiction of the brand, evoking a feeling of joy and satiety.
2016 – Present
After a long gap, the company declared in 2016 that it was replacing its bulky, outlined letters in the logo with a cleaner, more simplified design. Featuring a rounded sans-serif typeface, the left part of the logo is in solid yellow, and the right one is in green. The arrows on the letters “S” and “Y” became a little sharper and elaborate, which lent some strength and originality to the overall reputation of the company. This was a welcome change for the company as it hoped to pull through its second consecutive year of dreary earnings. Reportedly, the company revenue dropped by 4.3 percent in 2015.
Meaning of the Revised Subway Logo
The current Subway logo uses a bright green and yellow palette, clearly emphasizing the feelings of positivity and freshness that the brand has promoted from its initial days. Subway has a reputation as the “healthy” alternative in the fast-food universe, and its bright, dynamic logo is an important part of that image. The logo has a hidden meaning – the arrows in the letters S and Y of the “SUBWAY” indicate the quick entrance and exit from the store, so you can enjoy your food on the way.
Subway Logo Font
Since the very beginning, there have been numerous changes to the shape, style, and proportions of the characters in the word “SUBWAY”. Aside from the iconic arrows in “Y” and “S”, the other most characteristic feature in the wordmark is “W”. In most of the former versions of the logo, the letter featured atypical curvy lines. The sleek, angled version existed from 2002 to 2017.
Subway Logo Color
The current Subway logo uses a combination of green and yellow. Even though the colors are rather stunning, they aren’t excessively bright or distracting. The color green in the logo plays a massive role in convincing the audience that Subway offers healthier alternative meals to traditionally unhealthy fast foods of McDonald’s, KFC, and the like. The yellow color, on the contrary, represents joy, opulence, and optimism.
How popular is the Subway Logo
The famous American fast food restaurant owes most of its popularity to its strong and influential logo. Unlike many other famous fast-food chains whose present logo looks completely different from the first one, the Subway logo has remained somewhat constant from start till date. The company has also designed a monogram using the iconic arrows in their emblem and continues to use it in most of their marketing materials. From Subway’s TV ads to the paper they wrap their sandwiches in, this monogram can be noticed easily around us.
From bringing slight changes in design to introducing fresh colors, Subway has successfully managed to create a strong and convincing logo that has almost everything they want to convey to their customers. Interestingly, unlike most of its competitors and other big brands, they managed to get it right at the very first shot. This inspires many new and budding entrepreneurs to put all their thought and effort into creating an impressive logo that will represent their brand for decades.
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Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.