MILFORD, Conn. -- The Subway sandwich chain is vowing to work harder to achieve sandwich-length uniformity after a picture of an 11-inch "footlong" sub posted online by an Australian teen recently went viral and two separate lawsuits over sandwich length have followed.
Milford, Conn.-based Subway has 38,000 shops around the world, nearly all owned by franchisees, and its $5 footlong special has been a mainstay of the company's ads for several years, said the Associated Press.
Subway is protective about its footlongs, and in recent years has tangled with convenience store chains Sheetz and Casey's over terminology.
Without commenting on the current suits, Subway provided the following statement to CSP Daily News:
"For 47 years, customer satisfaction has been our top priority. We regret any instance where we did not fully deliver on our promise to our customers. We freshly bake our bread throughout the day in our more than 38,000 restaurants in 100 countries worldwide, and we have redoubled our efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich we serve. Our commitment remains steadfast to ensure that every Subway Footlong sandwich is 12 inches at each location worldwide."
Subway Australia had previously responded to the original complaint by saying that the "Subway Footlong" was a registered trademark used "as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length."
According to CNN, it also released a statement saying: "We are committed to providing a consistent product delivering the same amount of bread to the customer with every order. The length however may vary slightly when not baked to our exact specifications. We are reinforcing our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure our offerings are always consistent no matter which Subway restaurant you visit."
Nguyen Buren filed a suit in Chicago, reported The Chicago Tribune. Filed against Subway parent Doctor's Associates Inc., the suit claims his sandwich was less than 11 inches long and alleges a "pattern of fraudulent, deceptive and otherwise improper advertising, sales and marketing practices."
Two men filed a similar suit in New Jersey state court, and seek damages in excess of $5 million. Both suits are seeking class-action status.
In Feb. 2009, a federal judge denied Subway's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop Altoona, Pa.- based Sheetz Inc. from promoting its $4 footlong campaign, reported The Altoona Mirror. Subway officials had sent a letter to Sheetz requesting that the retailer cease its campaign, alleging that it was in violation of the Subway trademark and copyright laws and the Sheetz campaign was confusing to Subway customers.
Sheetz contended that the campaign was not in violation of any trademark or copyright of Subway, and that it highlighted sandwiches that Sheetz offered since Dec. 2006. The Sheetz ads also clearly included the Sheetz logo, the company said.
In Feb. 2011, Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey's General Stores Inc. sued Subway, which tried to force the convenience retailer to stop using the nonhyphenated term "footlong" as part of a promotion at 180 stores.
Subway's lawyers contacted Casey's and asserted proprietary rights to "footlong" and other elements of the Casey's campaign, reported The Des Moines Register. "Additionally, the offers of soup and pizza, as well as the design of the advertising offers, are all designed to create confusion to the average consumer," the lawyer wrote.
Subway threatened to sue; Casey's filed a petition in U.S. District Court asking for a jury trial and seeking a declaration that the term "footlong" is generic and does not violate any trademark owned by Subway. Casey's also asked for unspecified damages over Subway's claims.
"Casey's has and will continue to use 'footlong' to describe a sandwich," Casey's attorneys said in the petition.
The case did not go to court.