Global franchise now has almost 90 restaurants in the region.
Anniversaries are always special occasions, and earlier this month two businessmen from Northern Ireland celebrated their momentous decision to open the first Subway fast-food restaurant in the province.
In June 1998, Neil Black and Paul Heyes cut the ribbons on Subway’s Botanic Avenue branch in central Belfast. And a quarter of a century later, there are another 88 Subway restaurants dotted across Northern Ireland, thanks largely to this ambitious two-man team.
Together with Paul’s son Adam, the trio have been responsible for the remarkable growth of this global brand in the region, where Subway restaurants are owned and operated by an array of local franchise partners.
Looking back to when it all began in 1998, Paul explained: “Neil and I researched many brands before we finally homed-in on Subway. We loved the product and thought that local consumers would enjoy it too. Our restaurants are very adaptable, with different layouts and size requirements depending upon their location.
“This makes them suitable for everything from city centre shopping centres, and local high streets, to non-traditional locations such as airports, universities, convenience stores and leisure facilities. We believed there was a real opportunity to grow the brand across Northern Ireland and create many new jobs.”
The 25th anniversary celebration, which was held at the Botanic Avenue restaurant on Wednesday, June 14th, was certainly a grand occasion. The restaurant was decorated, while staff wore special anniversary T-shirts. A local magician, Rod Hogg, made regular appearances while customers were able to purchase any six-inch Sub for just £2.50, between the hours of 8am and 8pm.
Subway Business Developer Neil Black said: “When we introduced Subway to the region, we brought something new to customers. Our first store on Botanic Avenue was well received and the brand has gone from strength to strength.
“We’ve always been fortunate to enjoy the support of a loyal customer base. We have also been lucky enough to work with a fantastic group of hard-working and entrepreneurial franchise partners. It’s thanks to them – as well as our brilliant development team – that we have reached this milestone achievement.”
As for the Botanic Avenue branch, this restaurant is now owned and run by the husband-and-wife team of David and Lillian McClean. They took over five years ago, with David already familiar with the brand. David had worked for 15 years as a Subway store re-fitter and, in 2007, he and his wife had become franchise owners of another Belfast restaurant in Ballyhackamore.
David said: “We feel so proud and privileged to know that we own a small slice of Subway history in Northern Ireland. We’ve always been a fan of the brand, so we were thrilled when we were able to become franchise partners ourselves.
“As well as the fantastic range of freshly made Subway sandwiches, wraps, salads and snacks, we believe that a key factor in the success of the brand is the comprehensive support network provided to franchise partners. There is always someone on hand to help and this certainly played a significant part in our decision to become franchise partners.”
Over the last 25 years, Subway has provided employment for more than 1,300 people in Northern Ireland, while a number of others have become business owners themselves.
Paul’s son Adam has grown up with the brand, working at the Botanic Avenue restaurant while a student at both school and university. He gained experience in a variety of roles and in 2014 became a Subway Business Developer.
The enterprise has over 37,000 restaurants, in more than 100 countries, and over 70% of all new franchises sold worldwide are to existing Subway owners. Subway’s global headquarters are in the American Connecticut coastal town of Milford.