Death by choices – how complex can a sandwich get?

I lined up for a sandwich for lunch. Subway should be an excellent choice, claiming their position as the world’s largest “submarine sandwich” chain. However, my experience was different from expected, and as an operations guy, I would like to see some improvements…

An apparent mistake was that I did not know exactly what I should order. Instead, I thought I’d give the menu a glance and decide at the counter. Standing in line I had problems reading the “menu” hanging at the back of the shop. Before I was close to the counter I was asked to give my order. I can tell you they don’t like “ehhh” and “mmm” in Subway. Definitely, the menus should be visible for the customer before the order processing. The funny twist though is that when you finally decides for a sub, then the game begins…

There are at least 5 types of bread to choose from, 15 types of spread and cheese (of course you can combine them as well), 10 types of vegetables and pickles, and 15 types of dressing and sauce. This gives you – the customer – the opportunity and joy to choose from much more than 5x15x10x15 = 11.250 sandwiches!

Adding that they expect you to choose from each category within seconds, the sandwich insanity is complete. This is customization taken way to far. I usually rely on experts; in a sandwich shop I expect to find experts in sandwich that can customize my sandwich for me. I hope (and believe) employees in other Subway shops have more “customer empathy” than those I encountered.

The happiness in freedom of choice is overrated. Subway should at least have some standard subs that can be order by customers that are not already regulars. Who wants to choose from 11.250+ sandwiches?

Customization ala Subway

Sauce customization ala Subway

2 thoughts on “Death by choices – how complex can a sandwich get?

  1. Hi, nice posting! Though, they do have some standard choices. I guess they are not doing a good job of making them visible enough. I feel your pain, I remember feeling helpless the very first time I ordered a sandwich from Subway 9 years ago 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment ZAC. To see if your hypothesis is right I lined up again today to order one of their “standard chocies”: An Italian BMT.

      Sw1: “What d’ya want?”
      Me: “Italian BMT, foot long”
      Sw1: “What bread?”
      Me: “Ehh, the standard bread for Italian BMT… What is it?”
      Sw1: “Italian bread I think. You want that?”
      Me: “Yes”
      Sw2: “What cheese do you want?”
      Me: “Ehh, the standard cheese for Italian BMT?”
      Sw2: “You want this one?” (poiting to what seemed as a random cheese…)
      Me: “Yes”
      Sw3: “You want lettuce, tomato..?”
      Me: “Ehh, I want the standard choice for an Italian BMT”
      Sw3: “Lettuce? something else?”
      Me: “Yes, lettuce, tomato, onion, peppers, and add some cucumber as well”
      Sw4: “What dressing u want?”
      Me: “The standard dressing for Italian BMT?”
      Sw4: “This one?”
      Me: “Yes” (whatever..)
      Sw5: (the man at the counter) “What did you order?” “Anything else?”
      … I rest my case…
      The resulting “standard Italian BMT” was delicious though:)

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