I worked at Subway for 4 years - here's what employees know that customers don't

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  • Subway has over 25,000 locations in the US alone.
  • My first job was at Subway, and throughout my four years there, I learned the ins and outs of how the company operates - including its secrets.
  • Here's what employees know about Subway that some customers don't.

My first job was a part-time role working at a Subway restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. I went in a naïve 16-year-old high school student and emerged a slightly less naïve 20-year-old.

There might not be a deep fryer, but Subway is still considered a member of the fast-food family tree, with about 7.6 million subs served daily in 2016. Like most fast-food eateries, it has secrets that the average consumer knows nothing about when they walk through the door.
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1. Every sandwich on the menu is made using a specific formula.

1. Every sandwich on the menu is made using a specific formula.

Employees at Subway are taught to use a particular formula when making sandwiches. The general rule of thumb is that a footlong — like a turkey sub, for example — starts with six pieces of meat, with that number divided in half for six-inch sandwiches.

Cheese follows a similar rule, with four pieces on a footlong and two on a six-inch. If you want more meat or cheese, you'll have to pay extra to double the serving.

2. The $5 footlong promotion was absolute chaos when it first debuted.

2. The $5 footlong promotion was absolute chaos when it first debuted.

No Subway employee could have anticipated what was coming when the $5 footlong promotion kicked off in 2008.

The deal, which included every sandwich on the menu except double meat subs, caused a sharp increase of foot traffic to our store. I'm talking lines out the door, all day, every day. We ran out of bread halfway through the week.

Everyone on our staff worked well above their normal hours to try to keep up with customer demand, and the oven was rarely turned off during the day so the bread could keep baking.

Subway eliminated the deal in 2016. But today, you can get one of five select footlongs for $4.99.

3. Subway restaurants are franchises, which means different leadership runs each location.

3. Subway restaurants are franchises, which means different leadership runs each location.

The owner of my particular location owned another Subway storefront and managed the two shops simultaneously. Under his leadership, employees ate and drank for free at the two stores. There was no way I could walk into another store and request free, or even discounted, food because I happened to be an employee at a different location.

Every franchise has its own leadership, and the franchisee sets the terms for what employees at their specific location can and can't do. Never assume you'll receive anything for free. Instead, take care to respect the rules under your franchise's roof.

4. Don't worry — your sandwich no longer contains "yoga mat chemicals."

4. Don't worry — your sandwich no longer contains "yoga mat chemicals."

While I might have ended my illustrious Subway career in 2008, sometimes I pop by a store and grab a turkey sub. I'm not sure why I still do this. Maybe it's reassuring to order sandwiches that I used to make and therefore was fine with consuming because I knew all of the ingredients. Or at least I thought I did.

In 2014, a food blogger called out Subway for its inclusion of a chemical called azodicarbonamide in its breads, according to CBS News. This ingredient was described as "a bleaching agent and dough conditioner" approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but it's also used to make yoga mats.

Understandably, customers wanted the ingredient removed from their bread, and Subway began phasing it out in 2014, according to CNN. While the ingredient is no longer present, it does cast a cloud over the brand's ubiquitous "eat fresh" slogan.

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