At the beginning of March we reported that Subway Cafe would be leasing the last remaining space at 455 Mass and open late summer 2010. The first question that popped in our minds was what’s the difference between a Subway and a Subway Cafe? Research suggested that the Cafe concept offered more amenities (Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs), a broader menu (gelato, panini sandwiches, Thomas English muffins, Seattle’s best coffee) and what some described as more stylish decor (couches, dark wood). Recently I was in Alexandria and decided to visit the first Subway Cafe on Eisenhower Avenue to see for myself.
The decor and menu improvements plus the Wi-Fi are indeed present. While I would say the bar was raised above the typical Subway it was not hoisted much higher. Upon entering you first see a stone wall, the “couches” and flat screen TV. A few paces further into the store you’re returned to a yellow-red Subway color scheme. I ordered a sandwich with chicken breast and salami which was lacking in flavor. I can’t comment on the new coffee but the gelato was subpar and not worth the purchase.
I must admit that before this excursion I hadn’t been to Subway in several years. The fact of the matter is there is now much more competition in the under $10 meal price point than there was 5-10 years ago. I don’t know that these modest improvements over their current concept is enough to reclaim people who now favor Potbelly, Chopt, or Taylor Gourmet. The 455 Mass store will do enough business – it’s a good location that many will find convenient. The indictment I’m casting is more at corporate HQ who I feel is trying to bunt for a single rather than swing aggressively for a big hit.