Subway hops on the plant-based bandwagon

The chain plans to test a Beyond Meatball Marinara in 685 locations next month.
Photograph courtesy of Subway

Add another chain to the list of fast-food restaurants on the plant-based meat bandwagon, and this one is a doozy: Subway.

The world’s largest restaurant chain by unit count said Wednesday that it plans to test a Beyond Meatball Marinara at 685 locations in the U.S. and Canada for a limited time beginning next month.

The sandwich uses Beyond Meat in meatballs with marinara sauce and topped with provolone and Parmesan cheese.

The company said it worked with Beyond Meat to create a meatball specifically for Subway. “We look forward to a long-term partnership with Subway,” Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said in a statement.

Assuming that the test succeeds and the product is expanded nationwide, Subway would be the largest chain to add one of the popular plant-based items to its menu—larger than Burger King, which is debuting its Impossible Whopper nationwide on Thursday, or Dunkin’, which is working on its own Beyond Breakfast Sandwich.

So far, some notable large chains have resisted the idea, such as McDonald’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Taco Bell.

More could jump on the bandwagon soon, however. Wendy’s executives seemed warm to the idea of a plant-based burger while speaking on the company’s earnings call Wednesday morning.

The plant-based meat trend “is here to stay,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said. “We’re taking a hard look at what options for us will be in the restaurants.” He said the company would want to do a plant-based burger “the Wendy’s way” without adding operational complexity to its restaurants.

At Subway, the test of the Beyond Meatball Marinara comes as the chain has been testing or adding numerous items to its menu in a bid to lift sales out of a multiyear decline. That includes Halo Top milkshakes and sandwiches made with King’s Hawaiian bread.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content

Emerging Brands

5 pre-emerging restaurant brands ready for takeoff

These small concepts are still proving out their ideas, but each shows promise as a potential candidate for the next generation of emerging chains.


This little-known iPhone feature could change restaurant ordering

Tech Check: Almost every customer has a POS in their pocket. Can mini mobile apps get them to actually use it?


Red Lobster gives private equity another black eye

The Bottom Line: The role a giant sale-leaseback had in the bankruptcy filing of the seafood chain has drawn more criticism of the investment firms' financial engineering. The criticism is well-earned.


More from our partners