Subway founder and president Fred DeLuca is handing more leadership responsibility to his younger sister, Suzanne Greco, the company confirmed Monday.
However, a spokesman for the Milford, Conn.-based quick-service chain said DeLuca remains at the company’s helm.
The comment follows a New York Post report that Greco is now leading the sandwich chain, and that all departments are reporting to her.
“Fred has and continues to lead the company as he further empowers his team to better position the company for growth,” the Subway spokesman said in a statement. “As a family business, he has now shared some of that responsibility with senior VP Suzanne Greco.”
The reported shift in leadership responsibility comes just months after DeLuca returned to Subway, following nearly a year battling leukemia, a period in which he wasn’t involved with the company’s operations.
According to the company, Greco has been an active member of the management committee, and has led research and development and operations teams for years. She is also a member of the company’s board of directors and the strategic planning committee.
Greco has been with Subway since DeLuca founded it, making sandwiches as a teenager. DeLuca started the chain in 1965, after borrowing $1,000 from Dr. Peter Buck.
Subway, the largest restaurant in the world by unit count, has been a growth phenomenon. It currently has more than 43,000 units, with more than 25,000 locations in the U.S.
It also comes as the chain faces sales challenges in the U.S. amid intense competition for restaurant consumers and growing threats from other sandwich chains. Those challenges have slowed the company’s impressive growth rate domestically.
In 2013, the company’s systemwide sales grew 0.8 percent, a decrease from 6.3 percent the year before, and historically low by company standards. Sales per location fell 2.3 percent, to $471,000, based on Nation’s Restaurant News estimates.
Much of the decline appears to be going to competitors. According to NRN data, Subway’s share of the U.S. sandwich market declined in 2013, from 61.8 percent to 60.9 percent. Upstarts like Jimmy John’s, Firehouse Subs and Jersey Mike’s each grew share in the domestic sandwich market.
Even with the loss of market share, Subway’s 61-percent share of the quick-service sandwich market remains dominant. By comparison, McDonald’s has 48.4 percent of the limited-service burger market, based on NRN Top 200 data.
Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected].
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