Suzanne Greco has stepped down as CEO of Subway, the company said Wednesday, ending a tumultuous three-year period in which the sandwich giant’s sales continued to weaken and franchisees were in open revolt.
Trevor Haynes, the Milford, Conn.-based chain’s chief business development officer, has been named interim CEO while the company searches for a replacement.
Haynes will take over day-to-day operations of the chain “effective today,” the company said. Greco, who will officially retire on June 30 and become a senior advisor to the company, will work with Haynes “to ensure a smooth transition.”
Greco became CEO in 2015 during the worst year in company history, following the death of her brother and the company’s founder, Fred DeLuca. That same year, the chain’s longtime spokesman, Jared Fogle, was sent to prison after being convicted on child pornography and child sex charges.
But the chain, which operates more than 44,000 restaurants around the world and nearly 26,000 in the U.S., has struggled in its home market with weak sales and angry franchisees.
Subway’s U.S. system sales declined 4.4% in 2017 to $10.8 billion, according to data from Technomic's Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report.
Franchisees have been closing units. The chain closed more than 800 locations and was widely expected to close more this year.
The company late last year revealed plans to bring back the $5 Footlong, which had helped generate sales for years, with a $4.99 Footlong offer. Operators publicly complained. Greco’s decision to retire suggests that it hasn’t lifted sales as the company had hoped.
Greco has been involved with the company since 1973, when she was a sandwich artist. She spent more than two decades in the research and development department and was named vice president of operations and research and development in 2013.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to Suzanne for her lifetime of service in building Subway into one of the world’s greatest successes,” Subway’s shareholders, who include the chain’s co-founder Peter Buck and DeLuca’s family, said in a statement. “She was there when the first sandwich shop opened, and as CEO she focused on helping the company adapt to a more competitive and dynamic environment.”
In a statement, Greco said, “I love the brand and the company, and I always will, but it’s time for me to have more balance in my life.”
“I feel very good about the strategic moves we’ve made in the last three years, and I have confidence in the future of the company.”
Subway called Haynes “an experienced leader with deep knowledge of the company” who has held numerous leadership roles with the company. He joined the chain in 2006 as a territory manager in Australia. He later moved to the United Kingdom in 2009 to serve as senior area development manager for the U.K. and Ireland. He moved to Milford in 2014 to become global director of operations.