Subway faces social media buzz over sandwich size

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By Mae Anderson

The Associated Press — New York

Subway, the world’s largest fast food chain, is facing criticism after an Australian man posted a picture on the company’s Facebook page of one of its famous sandwiches next to a tape measure that seems to shows it’s not as long as promised.

The footlong sandwiches are meant to be 12 inches (30 centimetres), but the photo indicates the Australian’s sandwich is just 11 inches (28 centimetres).

More than 100,000 people have “liked” or commented on the photo, which has the caption “Subway pls respond.”

By Thursday afternoon, the picture was no longer visible on Subway’s Facebook page, which has 19.8 million fans. A spokesman for Subway said that the company did not remove the posting. Subway also said that the length of its sandwiches may vary slightly when its bread, which is baked at each Subway location, is not made to the chain’s exact specifications.

“We are reinforcing our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure our offerings are always consistent no matter which Subway restaurant you visit,” Subway said in an emailed statement.

The photograph — and the backlash — illustrates a challenge companies face with the growth of social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Before, someone in far flung local in Australia would not be able to cause such a stir. But the power of social media means that negative posts about a company can spread from small towns to locations around the world in seconds.

“People look for the gap between what companies say and what they give, and when they find the gap — be it a mile or an inch — they can now raise a flag and say, ’Hey look at this,’ I caught you,” said Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates in New York.

Subway has always offered footlong sandwiches since it opened in 1965. A customer can order any sandwich as a footlong. The chain started offering 6-inch (15-centimetre) versions of the sub in 1977. It introduced a $5 footlong promotion in 2008 as the U.S. fell into the recession, which became a popular seller and continues to be offered today.

The Subway footlong scandal is just the latest in a string of such social media public relations headaches for big companies.

Last year, a Burger King employee posted a Twitter message or “tweet” with a picture of someone standing in sneakers on two tubs of uncovered lettuce. Domino’s Pizza employees posted a video on YouTube of workers defacing a pizza in 2009. And a KitchenAid employee in 2012 made a disparaging remark about President Obama using the official KitchenAid Twitter account.

The key to mitigating damage when a social media furor arises is speed and directness, said Adamson, the branding expert.

“In today’s market you have to be able to roll with the punches and be much more fluid, responsive and responsible than before,” he said.

Organizations: Mae AndersonThe Associated Press, Landor Associates, Burger King KitchenAid

Geographic location: Australia, New York.Subway, U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Bob
    January 17, 2013 - 21:36

    I have measured "footlong" subs before and they are usually only 10 inches.The 6 inch ones are 5 inches at best.Subway is an awful company anyway.Especially the one on Merchant in Mount Pearl

  • Smells Like Feet
    January 17, 2013 - 16:23

    Their cheese breads they bake there make their stores smell like feet. Deal with that head office!