I am a published author who writes fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels. One of my first jobs was working at Subway.
Everyone who has ever eaten and enjoyed a sandwich at Subway misses when they used to sell five-dollar footlongs. Even though they don’t serve those anymore, the food is relatively cheap and delicious. You probably agree—or you wouldn’t be reading this article.
One of my first jobs was working at Subway. I figured a lot of people might be curious about what kinds of things happen behind the scenes, so I wrote this article. Maybe you’re interested in working there, too, or just curious about what you’re actually being served when you eat there. Either way, I hope you enjoy what I have to say.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Subway and its food...
1. Their bread and cookies are baked fresh, but not made fresh.
The cookie dough and bread dough is already made before it comes to the store. It gets delivered frozen. The bread has to be defrosted overnight for the next day.
The bread is about breadstick size when frozen, but then it's placed into pans in separate slots. It is put beneath the oven, in a warmer, and is left to rise. Then, afterwards, it is baked.
So they can say that the bread is “baked fresh,” but they can’t ever say it was “made fresh” because the workers don’t actually mix the ingredients together.
2. There are really only two types of bread.
The frozen bread comes in two types: white and wheat. What makes the bread jalapeños cheese flavored or herb and cheese flavored is just the toppings added to it after it rises, but before it bakes.
3. Everything smells like mustard.
One of the most frustrating things about working at Subway is that I always came home smelling like mustard. My hair, my clothes, my everything smelled like mustard, even though we made a lot of things that had no mustard, mustard was always the strongest smell.
4. Most of the food isn’t fresh.
Almost nothing is actually made in the store. Some of the vegetables are chopped by the sandwich artists like the bell pepper, onion, and tomato (and the avocado is sliced in front of the customer), but all the other vegetables come in bags that are just dumped into new containers.
I’ve already talked about the bread and cookies. The meat and cheese are all prepackaged and re-wrapped in-store.
The meatballs and soup are cooked in the microwave and kept in warming trays.
Tuna comes in a can and is mixed by hand with mayonnaise in the back. The prepackaged chicken is also mixed with the teriyaki.
But for the most part, everything is basically cooked, chopped, and done by the time it makes it to the store.
So I know Subway’s motto is "eat fresh," and the vegetables tend to look great. They’re crisp and delicious, but to call their sandwiches fresh is quite the stretch when hardly anything is made in-store.
5. It’s cleaner than most fast food places.
All food service workers are required by the government to wash their hands regularly and in a specific way. We learn how to do this when we start working and take a class where we receive our food handler’s card.
But Subway takes extra precautions. In addition to the regular rules, they also use gloves that are changed regularly.
And at least at the Subway I worked at, one of the hand washing stations was located in front of the customers, so whenever we came to the front, from the back, we were required to wash our hands and put on a new pair of gloves.
I’ve worked at several different fast food places and Subway was the only one that encouraged the workers to wear gloves.
6. You can tell how fresh the bread is just by looking at it.
This is a trick I learned from slicing open many loaves of bread. The easier it is for the worker to slice the bread, the older the bread is. If they slice into it and the whole thing kind of has to be smushed down and is difficult to chop open, then the bread was cooked within the last hour. If it’s really easy to slice open, then it was likely cooked hours before hand.
7. You might be eating day-old bread.
The bread gets rotated every day. They try to only make enough to last for one day, so you’re probably not eating day-old bread. But sometimes you are, especially in the morning, when the new bread is still baking. They have to use bread from the night before.
But it still tastes great and there’s nothing wrong with it. You likely won’t be able to taste the difference.
8. Every piece of meat, cheese, and all the vegetables are counted.
Subway is obsessed with all sandwiches being the exact same. No matter who makes the sandwich for you and at what location, the results are supposed to be the same.
They don’t count the lettuce, but everything else gets counted. Each piece of meat and cheese put on your sandwich is counted. Each pickle, each olive, each jalapeño is counted. There are pictures with guides to tell us how much of each thing to put on the sandwich.
They allow you to have extra vegetables for free, of course, but if you don’t ask for extra then you should be getting the same amount of each thing every time.
9. Everything has a date on it.
So while most things are shipped to us prepackaged and cooked, everything has a date on it. So while things aren’t what most people would consider fresh, they are never served if they are old. When any of the food is repackaged, a handwritten date is placed on it.
10. The tuna is probably real.
I know this has been a controversy lately—and technically I didn’t catch the fish and can it so I can’t say for sure—but the tuna is probably real. I think most people who have worked there will agree. In the back we open these giant tuna cans and mix in the mayonnaise by hand. It smells real and looks like real tuna before we add the mayonnaise in it. I think most people who believe this lie only believe it because they’ve only seen the tuna smothered with mayonnaise, so people should probably stop worrying about this.
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 26, 2021:
Good to hear about these store practices and the cleanliness training. That's a real plus in eating at a restaurant these days. Back in the day when I worked at a restaurant we were instructed on "portion control" for consistency and inventory management.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on August 25, 2021:
Interesting article! I like going to Subway sometimes and I always get extra jalapenos.