These New Sandwiches Won’t Save Subway From Itself

The word "new" just means "more of the same thing" at Subway.

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new subway sandwiches
The Supreme Meats Sandwich (front) and the Mozza Meats (back)
Photo: Dennis Lee

Subway’s been trying to revamp its image for a while now. It’s currently in the midst of a brand revitalization campaign called Eat Fresh Refresh, which has seen menu tinkering, food quality adjustments, and a streamlining of the ordering system. As a small part of that broad campaign, Subway has released two new Italian sandwiches: the Supreme Meats sandwich and the Mozza Meats sandwich.

What comes on Subway’s new sandwiches?

Here’s what each sandwich features:

  • Mozza Meats: capicola (which is new to Subway), ham, fresh mozzarella, spinach, red onions, tomatoes, banana peppers, and a parmesan vinaigrette.
  • Supreme Meats: pepperoni, salami, capicola, ham, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, banana pepper, red onions, and parmesan vinaigrette.
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Subway sent me a voucher so I could try a six-inch version of each of the new sandwiches. When I visited the closest location to the office and ordered them, the employee asked me which toppings I wanted on my sandwiches and slapped mozzarella on both (the Supreme Meats has provolone, not mozzarella). When I requested the sandwiches be built to spec, she had no idea what I was talking about. So she eyeballed the promo photos and pretty much winged the construction of each, based off the pictures.

What I got was one sandwich built correctly, the Mozza Meats, while the Supreme Meats had the right proteins on it, but with with the wrong cheese and veggies. As the recipient, I didn’t mind at all (in fact, it looked great to me), but then it sort of begged the question: do Subway employees know that there are supposed to be a default set of toppings on new sandwiches? I got the distinct impression that she wasn’t briefed on that fact.

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The issue with Subway’s sandwich rollout

Later I checked on Subway’s website’s ordering system, which automatically adds the correct toppings for you. The disparity between the online ordering system versus ordering in person is a little confusing. It feels like Subway is putting more resources into its online and app ordering system, but leaving in-person orders entirely up to customers on the spot.

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The end result is that it leaves the customer responsible for figuring out exactly what toppings are supposed to be on each sandwich according to Subway’s build, if you’re ordering the new sandwiches in person. It’s confusing.

Are Subway’s new sandwiches worth ordering?

Like everything else on the menu, these sandwiches are perfectly fine for what they are. They’re deli sandwiches on freshly baked bread, you’ve been to Subway, you know exactly what you’re getting.

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The Mozza Meats sandwich was the blander option between the two. As much as I love fresh mozzarella, it only shines in a few applications where it’s in concert with something acidic, like tomatoes and vinegar. The issue is, when you introduce other ingredients like salty deli meat, it turns the cheese into a background player. And honestly, if it weren’t there, I probably wouldn’t have noticed much.

I love capicola, but it’s hard to pick out in each bite, so the entire sandwich reads as a vaguely Italian-inspired combination. Almost all of the flavor leans on the vinaigrette, which gives a much-needed splash of acid to each bite, as do the banana peppers and occasional sharp pop of the red onions. All in all, it’s a totally serviceable sandwich, it’s got a fresh vibe to it, but just not a lot of flavor.

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The Supreme Meats is better for one specific reason: the pepperoni. The pepperoni does all of the heavy lifting and its cured tang is the best thing about it. The rest of the deli meats pretty much add chew and salt. As mentioned in the Mozza Meats, the same acidic flavors are also what keep the rest of the sandwich from being boring. The rest of the veggies just feel like flavorless filler.

If you’re going to order either sandwich, go for the Supreme Meats. But do either taste much different than say, the classic Italian B.M.T. (Biggest, Meatiest, Tastiest), which has salami, pepperoni and ham, with the same veggie and sauce combo? Not at all.

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Subway’s branding problem

I’ve always found Subway’s food to be right down the middle; that is to say, they’re inoffensive and that the flavors aren’t particularly bold, novel, or have much personality to them. But that’s also the crowd-pleasing appeal. Plus, that you can mess around with the toppings and sauces on top as you please has always been pretty fun, as a concept.

While I get that Subway’s trying to glam up its embattled image for multiple reasons, this whole Eat Fresh Refresh overhaul sort of feels like an inside joke. If you had no idea what it was, then their commercials read as complete gibberish. Like, how are you supposed to know what Stephen Curry is talking about in the commercial above, if you haven’t been keeping up with Subway news, like I have?

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I don’t have a problem with the food. It’s fine. But what I do see is a company struggling with its own identity and how to keep up when there’s other sandwich chains chasing after its business. Off the top of my head there’s Jimmy John’s, Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse Subs, Potbelly, and more, which are all cultivating brand identities and have established their own unique personalities. I think Subway’s just lost its own over time, and now it’s really starting to show.