Subway's new 'Sidekicks' snacking lineup has some interesting partners

The sandwich giant is partnering with Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon on new footlong pretzels and churros. Both chains are owned by Roark Capital, which plans to buy Subway.
Subway Sidekicks
Subway is adding an Auntie Anne's Footlong Pretzel and a Cinnabon Footlong Churro to its Footlong Cookie as part of a snack lineup. | Photo by Jonathan Maze.

Subway this week released a new product line that it hopes will build sales during parts of the day when people aren’t buying sandwiches. But the lineup may be more notable for the companies Subway is working with to produce the products.

The chain’s new “Sidekicks” line of snackable, footlong items includes the Cinnabon Footlong Churro and the Auntie Anne’s Footlong Pretzel, along with Subway’s previously released Footlong Cookie.

Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon are both owned by the Atlanta-based Focus Brands, which is owned by Roark Capital, the very same private-equity group that is trying to buy Subway.

But Subway executives say that connection is a mere coincidence. “This project has been, gosh, I’m going to say 14-15 months in the making,” Doug Fry, president of Subway North America, said in an interview. “Well before conversations were happening on the sale.”

“The two are not connected,” he added. “But I can see why someone would ask that.”

Subway opted to work with the Focus Brands concepts because they have expertise creating these types of items. And they’re experienced in licensing their products for use in other restaurant chains.

“We looked at multiple options of how to expand the category,” said Paul Fabre, SVP of culinary and innovation for the chain. “They’re the experts in snacking and delivering craveable products. We own footlong. They own pretzels and they have some good, iconic flavors to work with.”

The items are priced aggressively. Subway is charging $2 for the churro, $3 for the pretzel and $5 for the cookie, price points that some franchisees believe to be too low, particularly in costlier markets such as California.

Yet company executives believe the items could generate traffic during the afternoons and the evenings when sandwich sales are lower. Subway has traditionally depended almost entirely on lunch. Getting people to come in during other times of day could be a crucial sales lever.

And that could drive unit volumes for the chain’s 20,000 domestic restaurants. “We’re really looking at how we drive guests into the restaurants outside of the traditional mealtimes,” Fry said.

Subway tested a footlong cookie on National Cookie Day in 2022. It did so well the company brought it back late last year, this time permanently. But the cookie did so well that the chain felt it could expand that line.

“I think that the footlong cookie was definitely one of the items that jumpstarted this idea,” Fabre said.

He added that the company wanted to take advantage of the cachet it has built over the years supplying footlong sandwiches to consumers. It only made sense, in other words, to provide snackable items that are also a foot long. “What else can we do that’s a footlong?” Fabre said.

More to the point, consumers are not just focused on traditional meals. They’re more likely to order snacks or beverages, particularly younger consumers. “People coming in and having a quick treat is something that’s growing quite a bit,” Fabre said. “People are not having the traditional three meals anymore.”

Fry said that, in test markets, customers frequently bought the Sidekicks after 2 p.m. and on weekends.

But customers also frequently added them to existing orders. “Over 50% in those test restaurants are actually adding it to an existing, Subway Series footlong sandwich,” Fry said. “They’re kind-of rounding out their meal.”

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