As Subway Restaurants proceeds with a major marketing move in consolidating its U.S. and Canadian media and creative business with a leading Japanese ad agency, the chain is also dealing with a shuffle at the executive level.
Karlin Linhardt has resigned as Subway’s head of North American marketing after just nine months on the job, the company confirmed Tuesday.
Linhardt joined the Milford, Conn.-based sandwich chain in April from Accenture.
“Karlin has tendered his resignation and Subway accepted it,” a Subway spokesman said in an email statement. “We wish him well in his future endeavors. Our focus remains on Subway’s brand transformation and our North America marketing team will continue their innovative work. We are searching for a replacement.”
His departure after only nine months in the position came amid pressure from franchisees over declining traffic and sales.
Linhardt’s resignation was first reported Monday by The New York Post, which also reported that Subway was facing a franchisee-owner revolt over the inclusion of a $4.99 footlong sub in its turnaround plan.
In April, operators told NRN that aggressive development had cannibalized existing locations and hurt unit economics. “Stores that were exceptionally strong five years ago are much weaker now,” one franchisee said.
Already generating relatively low unit volumes, the quick-service sandwich chain has seen big declines more recently. In 2012, estimated unit sales were $482,000 and by 2016 that number had fallen to $420,000 — a 15-percent decline, according to NRN data.
Linhardt’s departure is the latest in Subway executive changes. On Dec. 1, Subway announced the hiring of Len Van Popering as vice president of global marketing and innovation. Van Popering had recently worked as senior vice president for marketing and product innovation at Arby’s Restaurant Group.
And on Oct. 30, it appointed company veteran Trevor Haynes to the new position of chief business development officer.
Last week, Subway announced it was consolidating its media strategy under Japan’s Dentsu Aegis Network with a mission to “grow Subway’s brand vitality with consumers.”
The company began looking for a new North American ad agency in July, shortly after Linhardt came aboard. And Linhardt took a lead role in picking the new agency.
He was quoted in the announcement naming Dentsu as the choice on Dec. 11, just a week before he resigned.
“This is a pivotal time for Subway as we are accelerating our transition to becoming a modern marketing organization,” Linhardt said in a statement at the time.
Subway has more than 44,000 units in 113 countries.