Changes in Subway's Menu Spark Controversy: Cheese Slice No Longer Free in Indian Outlets

Subway's menu changes in India raise questions as cheese slices are no longer free, sparking customer reactions. Explore the impact of cost-cutting measures and shifting food prices.

Aug 11, 2023 - 10:08
Aug 11, 2023 - 10:08
Changes in Subway's Menu Spark Controversy: Cheese Slice No Longer Free in Indian Outlets
Changes in Subway's Menu Spark Controversy: Cheese Slice No Longer Free in Indian Outlets

Subway, the renowned American fast-food chain, has overhauled its menu offerings in India, a move that has raised eyebrows among customers. The chain, famous for its customizable sandwiches, has eliminated the complimentary cheese slice option from its offerings. Instead, customers are now required to pay an extra fee of 30 rupees ($0.40) for the inclusion of a cheese slice in their sandwiches. To soften the blow, Subway is introducing a free alternative—'cheezy' sauce.

Operating around 800 outlets across India, Subway holds a prominent position in the restaurant industry. However, the decision to charge for a previously free element has been met with mixed reactions. Industry experts suggest that this change may not be solely about taste preferences, but also about the brand's effort to manage costs amidst a challenging economic landscape.

Escalating prices of key ingredients, particularly dairy products, have put considerable financial strain on fast-food chains operating in India. Even global giants like Domino's have felt the pinch. The promotion price for Domino's cheapest pizza in India is a mere 60 US cents, reflecting a response to a whopping 40% increase in cheese prices during the past financial year.

This trend of cost-cutting is not limited to Subway alone. Several McDonald's and Subway outlets in India have opted to exclude tomatoes from their menus due to both quality concerns and a staggering 450% surge in prices. To alleviate the tomato shortage, India has even resorted to importing the produce from Nepal.

In Subway's case, the absence of free cheese slices has been compensated with the introduction of a cheese sauce, described by Everstone Group's Culinary Brands as a qualitative enhancement. Despite the company's claim that the sauce is an improvement, it has not resonated positively with all customers. Some have taken to social media platforms to express their disappointment.

Mayur Hola, the marketing head of Culinary Brands, disclosed that the new cheese sauce comes at a cost of 400 rupees per kilogram. This price point stands in contrast to the market price of around 700 rupees per kilogram for cheese slices. Hola clarified that customers can still choose to add a cheese slice for a minor fee.

Analysts observe that this strategic shift mirrors the challenges posed by rising ingredient costs, prompting restaurants to adopt innovative strategies rather than outright price hikes. While a Subway sandwich's cost in India typically ranges from 200 to 300 rupees ($2.4 to $3.6), opting for a cheese slice, previously complimentary, now incurs an additional charge of up to 15%.

Subway's decision underscores the complex interplay between consumer preferences and economic constraints. As India's central bank revises its inflation forecast due to mounting food prices, the fast-food industry is navigating uncharted territory to strike a balance between profitability and customer satisfaction.

Also Read: Change Your Name to ‘Subway’ and Win Free Sandwiches for Life

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