December 28, 2009

Subway Remains Committed but Kosher Franchise Suddenly Shrinks; MendyÕs New King

New York…The sign on the Avenue J site of the Subway’s restaurant chain read “Immediately Available” signifying the possible end of an experiment on one of Brooklyn’s busiest kosher commercial strips. Just a few months ago, the chain was crowned the largest kosher restaurant franchise in the country but with closures or imminent closures in such neighborhoods as Avenue J and Kings Highway in Brooklyn, Downtown NYC, New Rochelle and Livingston, NJ, the chain’s plans may be in disarray. In the Avenue J case, a spokesman for Subway’s blamed the closure on a dispute with the franchisee and said that it was looking for a replacement at a substantially less investment than the original owner because much of the equipment and set-up was in place. The company said that the Avenue J franchise was available for far less than its usual franchise fee. Although not confirmed, kosher Subway’s restaurants are said to still be operating in Cedarhurst, Flushing, Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, Kansas City and Los Angeles as well as the flagship restaurant in Cleveland which may be closed only temporarily. Elan Kornblum, "The Restaurant Guy" and President & Publisher of Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine, has always argued that “while opening a kosher Subway might be a good idea at first and will initially draw a nice crowd, what happens when the novelty wears off and it has to compete like any other kosher restaurant, where price, quality and service is the utmost importance.” On Avenue J, the restaurant was sandwiched between two other restaurants, one the highly successful Kosher Delight restaurant. Ita, a Subway’s regular at Avenue J seemed to have the answer for Subway’s shaky position: “Their menu is too limited to compete with a real kosher deli and Jews like big menus.” With the Subway closings, the new king of kosher franchises goes to Mendy’s with its seven restaurants in New York City, including several blocks from where the Avenue J Subway was.