Subway, the world's largest single-brand restaurant chain, opened its first location in Estonia today. Reader questions answered below.
Wait a second, didn't the location open already on Thursday? I noticed it got a lot of press.
That was the "official" opening. We had to wait three days for the location to "roll the rock" from the front door. Of course, you have to remember Easter is pretty much like any old Sunday for most people in Estonia. But as one Estonian wit posted on Facebook, perhaps it is a day people can come together and share in fellowship of Jared.
Although not to the degree of McDonald's, some folks - mainly the American diplomatic and business community - are really seeing it as an important cultural milestone. After all, it's the quintessential American business success story (college kid done good, bold marketing) come to town, with a extremely carefully vetted local franchisee who, Subway hopes, will exemplify those can-do traits.
So the burning question - what's a footlong called?
It looks like no famous cult movie dialogue will come out of this - the Footlong is simply the Footlong. A metric conversion is helpfully provided, though - rounded down to 30 cm.
So is the sub itself 2 mm shorter than in the US?
If you're shelling out €6 for a footlong, you don't really need to worry about that. But a footlong is indeed a foot long.
But the big-board menu says a 30 cm sub costs only 2 euros.
No, but you wouldn't be the first to ask that, as a counterperson told ERR News. Since the shop opened at 10am, there have been at least ten such questions. As the Estonian text explains, €2 is only the price of the second 15 cm of the footlong. The first 15 cm costs either €4, €3.50, or €3, depending on which of the 15 subs you pick.
So more than a Big Mac…
Yes. Actually, Subway gauges its prices against the Big Mac, regional representative Justin Goes told Eesti Ekspress in 2012, saying that a basic sub should be priced at 60 percent of a Big Mac. But it appears that they mean the price of the meal, not the burger. In terms of the Big Mac index, Estonians have to work 28 minutes to buy a Big Mac (€2.80), according to a recent calculation. So we're looking at an hour for a footlong.
All right, another muckraking question. What about VAT?
No double standards from the government here. Estonia's standard rate of 20 percent applies to all restaurants.
How many "sändvitš restaurants" does the chain plan in Estonia?
Twenty. The original idea was 25, but now it has pared it down to 20, by the year 2019. More than McDonald's. That's the same number as Iceland, another small country where Subway has greatest market penetration in Europe.
How many competed for the franchisee?
Subway made the choice from among 50 candidates, according to Eesti Ekspress, with a final round of 13 candidates. After the first one didn't work out, the honors went to OÜ Footlong, operated by Henry Oro and Ats Raigla. They paid 7,500 euros as a licensing fee to Subway, media reported.
Will Estonians really go in for big handheld sandwiches on wheat bread?
No reason to think they won't. American-style square loaves of whole wheat are now ubiquitous in supermarkets (baguettes and ciabatte often fresh-baked on premises), and kids are said to be increasingly turning up their nose at rye bread. Anyway, Subway isn't the first sub shop - local brand XPRS Deli does a good business. But since Subway doesn't have a deep fryer, there's still a question of how it can corner an Estonian market without chips (French fries).
Where are the ingredients from?
Except for some produce (tomatoes, mainly) it's all imported. The bread dough comes in frozen from Germany. Pork is from the Netherlands and Great Britain. Beef from South America, chicken from Thailand and Brazil.