As part of the Subway sandwich chain’s efforts to get food closer to customers, the company In September installed its first interactive, unattended smart fridge at the University of California San Diego.
The Milford, Conn.-based brand said the fridges are stocked daily by the franchisee’s nearby restaurant location.
The fridges feature artificial intelligence and language processing, so customers can speak to the device and ask about any of the products inside.
Weight-sensor shelves ensure guests are charged correctly, the company said, and it is contactless and cashless transaction. It also uses UV-C light sanitation after every purchase.
The fridges are part of Subways efforts to expand into non-traditional locations.
“As more of our guests search for dining experiences to meet their ‘in-the-moment’ needs, the brand’s non-traditional locations and platforms can serve them wherever and whenever they are craving Subway,” said Taylor Bennett, Subway’s vice president of non-traditional development, in a statement.
“As Subway focuses on strategic and profitable growth, there is a significant opportunity to expand our footprint in non-traditional locations and for franchisees to generate incremental revenue for their business,” Bennett said.
For the first three quarters of 2022, about 5,900 non-traditional locations across the U.S. and Canada saw an average 13% increase in same-store sales, the company said, adding that those 5,900 locations represent about 25% of Subway’s North American footprint.
Non-traditional locations include as airports, truck stop plazas, college campuses, convenience and gas stores and hospitals, the company said.
Subway began piloting its Grab & Go platform in 2020. Sandwiches are prepared fresh daily by franchisees and distributed to Subway Grab & Go retail locations, including casinos, convenience and gas stores, hospitals and airports. The platform is now available in more than 400 locations across North America.
The smart fridge since September has received positive feedback, the company said, and franchisees have expressed interest in expanding their portfolios.
“Subway Grab & Go has quickly gained traction as consumers are drawn to sandwiches made fresh daily from a brand they know and love, vs. competitor items that rely on a 14-day plus shelf life,” said Karla Martinez, the company’s director of innovation for non-traditional development.
“As Subway continues to expand off-premises concepts,” Martinez said, “guests can expect to find Subway Grab & Go and smart fridges in more convenient everyday places like airports, college campuses and hospitals.”
Subway has more than 37,000 restaurants in over 100 countries.
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