Subway is exploring a potential sale that could value the sandwich chain at more than $10 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The process is in its early stages and Subway could still decide against pursuing a sale, said the person, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
“As a privately held company, we don’t comment on ownership structure and business plans,” Subway said in an email. “We continue to be focused on moving the brand forward with our transformational journey to help our franchisees be successful and profitable.”
Subway has long been a potential target for private equity firms, as well as other corporations.
The company, based in Milford, Connecticut, is one of the world’s largest quick-service restaurant chains, with about 37,000 locations in more than 100 countries. Its rapid growth since opening its first shop in 1965 has tapered off in recent years amid intense competition.
Subway’s deliberations were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.
Last October, Subway said it had experienced positive growth over the previous 18 months as the chain revamped its image with the “Eat Fresh” campaign that included new bread recipes, aimed at improving consumers’ perception of the chain and its ingredients. The company said that digital sales, which include orders made online and via mobile apps, have bolstered results.
The momentum could help the company garner some interest following a difficult period in which it experienced management upheaval, criticism from franchisees and declining sales.
Subway is one of the most recognizable names in the restaurant industry, and its more than 20,000 U.S. locations makes it the largest by store count, dwarfing even McDonald’s Corp. The company’s lack of drive-throughs hurt it during the pandemic, when many dining rooms were closed.
The company also endured a string of negative press, including its one-time pitchman being convicted for child pornography in 2015. Ireland’s Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that Subway’s bread had too much sugar to be called bread.