The SUBWAY brand recently celebrated its 2,000th store opening in the UK and Ireland, when SUBWAY franchisee, Christopher Seymour, opened a new store in Hemel Hempstead. It is Christopher’s
12th store with the brand, eight of which he co-owns with his father, Mark Seymour. Christopher started working with the SUBWAY brand over 12 years ago, when Mark opened his first store.
Christopher recalls: “I started working with the SUBWAY brand when my dad opened his first store in High Wycombe in 2002. I was only 17 years old at the time and still at college, so worked part-time. I continued to work in the store throughout my time at university and also helped my dad to open more stores in High Wycombe and Aylesbury. “After graduating, I started working full-time in the stores, taking on many roles – from Sandwich Artist to store manager. In 2009 I became a franchisee myself, buying my first store in Hemel
And Christopher hasn’t looked back, now owning a total of 12 stores with his father in High Wycombe, Aylesbury, London and Hemel Hempstead. However, the growth didn’t come without its challenges, with
the recession taking its toll in 2008. “The recession was a tough time for us – sales dropped by 30 per cent, so we had to tighten our margins to be able to continue operating,” Christopher says. “It was especially bad timing, as we were in the process of opening four new stores. It was a hard slog to get them off the ground with such a drop-off in custom, but the recession was hard for everyone, regardless of the brand name above the door. “With hard work and determination we made it through, but it was difficult to regain customers.
The launch of the £3 Lunch deal in 2011 helped to turn things around for us. With such a great value offering, we saw sales pick up and we were back to operating at our pre-recession levels.” Over his 12 years with the SUBWAY brand, Christopher has seen a noticeable shift in customers. He says: “Back when we opened our first few stores, our customer base was typically 18-30-year-olds – we didn’t get many families or professionals, but that has changed over the years.
We now have a lot more office workers and business professionals visiting at lunchtime – not only because we have a great value offering, but also because we are convenient. “A couple of our stores are in industrial estates, which are prime locations for workers who want a quick and healthy lunch, so that’s been a big boost for us.
We also have stores in retail and leisure parks – including the 2,000th store, located in Jarman Leisure Park, Hemel Hempstead – which we’re now seeing a lot more families visit, again for the convenience and choice that the stores offer. “More recently, since the launch of the £2 Breakfast deal, we’ve also been seeing more of the older generation visit our stores. Nowadays, the location of a store is key and will influence the type of customer base you’re going to get.”
Christopher also recognises the invaluable support offered by the SUBWAY brand to its franchisees. He says: “The SUBWAY brand offers a great deal of support to its franchisees – even for those who have been with the brand for over a decade, such as me and my dad. “The training available is invaluable – and that applies to any level within the business.
Whether you’re the franchisee just starting out, a Sandwich Artist or store manager, the brand makes sure everyone has the tools required to succeed in their role. The SUBWAY brand development agents and field consultants offer a great deal of support as well and help to make sure you’re running your business as efficiently as possible.” Using his years of experience as a SUBWAY franchisee, Christopher has some words of advice to prospective franchisees.
He says: “It really is all about location, location, location. My advice to anyone thinking of buying a franchise would be to do your research. Find out where your customer base will come from, who they are and how you are going to attract them to your store. I believe location can be the key to success, so think outside the box when it comes to choosing a site.”
Christopher’s father, Mark, is now semi-retired, leaving him to take the reigns. “Over the last couple of years my dad has taken a step back and is now semi-retired, so I’m much more active and involved in the day-to-day running of our stores,” Christopher says. “I act as Area Manager – I aim to visit each of our stores at least two-three times a week to see our 100-plus employees. I also work very closely with the store managers to help with the operational running of the stores, deal with any issues, train staff and ensure the right promotions are in place.”
During his 12 years working with the SUBWAY brand, Christopher has seen how the brand has grown throughout the UK. He says: “The growth of the SUBWAY brand has been phenomenal. “When my dad and I were opening our first store, it was only the 53rd store to open in the country.
Now we’ve just opened the 2,000th store in the UK and Ireland. I’ve been working with the SUBWAY brand for my entire career – it’s been fantastic that we’ve been able to grow our business with the brand.” Christopher represents a second generation entrepreneur for the SUBWAY brand and has yet more stores planned for 2015.
He says: “I’ve got another three stores in the pipeline for this year – two in East London and another in High Wycombe – where I hope to replicate the success of my 12 existing SUBWAY stores.”