Subway is backing off breakfast, and it reveals a growing problem plaguing the restaurant industry


Subway is no longer requiring franchisees to serve breakfast. 

The sandwich chain changed its policies to allow franchisees to opt out of serving egg-based sandwiches and opening by 7 a.m. every day, Bloomberg reported.

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The best and worst fast food items of the year
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The best and worst fast food items of the year

BEST: JACK IN THE BOX'S ALL-AMERICAN RIBEYE BURGER

In October, Jack in the Box became one of several fast food restaurants offering premium burgers. The All-American Ribeye Burger consists of grilled ground ribeye beef patty, Havarti cheese, grilled onions, tomato, mayo, and a red wine glaze sauce on a toasted potato bun. At about $6, this fancy burger is worth a try. 

Photo credit: Getty

WORST: STARBUCK'S UNICORN FRAPPUCCINO

It's hard to know what Starbucks was thinking when it developed the Unicorn Frappuccino, a sugar-packed, color-changing coffee drink with more calories than a McDouble. The drink changed flavors as you stirred it, turning sweet to sour. If that sounds awful, don't worry: Like unicorns, you won't be seeing this drink around anytime soon. 

Photo credit: Reuters

BEST: MCDONALD'S SIGNATURE SRIRACHA

Topped with baby greens, white cheddar cheese, tomato, and a signature sriracha sauce, McDonald's sriracha burger brought a genuinely new flavor to wide release this year. At $5, it's more expensive than other sandwiches on the menu, but this tangy quarter-pound burger might just become a favorite. Plus, the sriracha sauce makes a great alternative to ketchup for your fries. 

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WORST: BURGER KING'S FROOT LOOPS SHAKE

Just because two things are great doesn't mean they should be combined. Case in point: Burger King's Froot Loops milkshake, which is supposed to give customers the essence of one of their favorite childhood cereals, but misses the mark with a bland dessert with soggy cereal chunks. 

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BEST: ARBY'S SMOKED ITALIAN PORCHETTA SANDWICH

Arby's expanded the range of flavors on its menu this year with its smoked Italian porchetta sandwich, featuring sliced smoked pork loin porchetta, banana peppers, Italian seasoning, red onion, tomato, lettuce, smoked provolone, a red wine vinaigrette, and garlic aioli on a toasted Italian roll. One YouTuber summed up the new item well: It's like an Italian sandwich and a Cuban sandwich "got it on." 

Photo credit: Getty

WORST: CHIPOTLE'S NEW QUESO

When Chipotle introduced its queso in September, people were decidedly unimpressed -- a review in USA Today called it "pungent, veggie-speckled cheese soup." Many criticized it for lacking the gooey consistency of traditional queso. The problem, it seems, was that Chipotle was trying to be health-conscious and opted not to use processed cheese, the main ingredient in true Tex-Mex queso. 

Photo credit: Reuters

BEST: RED ROBIN'S CITRUS HARISSA SALMON BURGER

It's difficult for a burger restaurant to expand its menu in a way that's tasty and not wildly unhealthy. But Red Robin introduced a good option for people trying to cut down on red meat without sacrificing flavor: the Citrus Harissa Salmon Burger, a lightly blackened 6-ounce salmon fillet with roasted red pepper harissa aioli, lemon wheels, citrus-marinated tomatoes and onion, and fresh arugula, all on a toasted telera bun. 

Photo credit: Reuters

WORST: WHITE CASTLE'S CRAB CAKE SLIDER

White Castle should stick to what it does best -- onion-and-pickle burger sliders -- and avoid incorporating seafood into its menu. Does anyone think eating a Crave Case of seafood sliders is a good idea? One YouTube reviewer suggested when to eat the new item: "If you're really desperate, and White Castle's the only option you have on Friday during Lent." 

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WORST: BURGER KING'S RODEO KING

Burger King's Rodeo King burger has several things working against it: It costs almost $7. It packs in 2,270 milligrams of sodium. Worst of all, it fails to bring anything new to the restaurant's menu. Still, the sandwich's tangy Rodeo BBQ sauce is pretty tasty, so consider ordering the cheaper Rodeo products on the menu. 

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BEST: CHICK-FIL-A'S SPICY CHICKEN TENDERS

The success of Chick-fil-A can be attributed in part to its willingness to keep it simple. Still, every menu needs updating from time to time, and these spicy chicken tenders are a perfect addition. They feature "a spicy blend of peppers," but otherwise follow the recipe of the regular tenders. 

Photo credit: Getty

WORST: ARBY'S DEEP-FRIED TURKEY CLUB

Arby's claims its limited-edition turkey club was "deep fried to perfection," but not enough to justify a steep $8. This hearty sandwich is topped with "pepper bacon, cheddar, tomato, lettuce, mayo, and other stuff that makes it a club," but ends up just being too much food and not enough flavor. That's a problem because, as one reviewer put it: "There isn't much room for error if you're charging this much for a sandwich." 

Photo credit: Reuters

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The chain's breakfast options never caught on across the United States in the eight years since Subway began serving the morning meal. According to Bloomberg, market-research firm Field Agent found that 43% of Subway customers do not visit for breakfast, and 19% did not even know the chain served breakfast. 

The change comes at a tumultuous time for Subway. 

Subway's US store count fell by 909 in 2017, losing almost three times as many locations as it did the year before. The sandwich chain told Bloomberg that it expects to close about 500 of its US locations this year, based on projections.

Franchisees and other internal Subway sources told Business Insider in recent months that up to one-third of the chain's more than 25,800 US locations may not be profitable, and that franchisees were bracing for more closures.

And, in May, Subway CEO Suzanne Greco announced plans to retire after 45 years at the company.

Subway did not immediately return Business Insider's request for comment. 

The chain's struggles have been exacerbated by competition in an industry in which restaurants are struggling to find enough workers to staff stores.

With unemployment at a 17-year low, restaurants are struggling to hire and retain workers. According to Bloomberg, finding employees to work early hours is yet another complication that helped convince Subway to change its breakfast policies. 

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