Cold Cuts, Buns and Money: Subway's Boom

PHOTO: Jared, Subway spokesman

We all need to eat in boom times and busts. We all get hungry no matter what happens to home prices. And when the dust settles from this recession, there will still be lunch.

So what does this economy taste like?

It tastes fast. Fast food sales are projected to increase 4 percent in 2009. For Subway, the chain of sandwich stores, that could mean opportunity for further growth.

VIDEO: $5 Foot Longs Revolutionize Fast Food
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"That $5 foot-long program has done phenomenally well," Jeff Moody, CEO of Subway, told "Nightline." "We've grown double digits last year despite the economy and we're up again this year on top of last year. So we've been very very fortunate."

Watch the full story on "Nightline" TONIGHT at 11:35 p.m. ET

Chances are, there is a Subway near you right now. Having added more than 1,000 new stores already this year, the chain boasts 22,000 outlets in the United States alone. That's more than McDonald's.

"We can get into more smaller locations than [McDonald's] could -- we're in convenience stores, truck stops, we can get in more different kind of small footprints than they can," Moody said.

Not needing big kitchens, Subways fit almost anywhere. Not even the president can escape the chain's reach.

President Obama was approached by a Subway employee during a recent visit to the D.C. burger joint Five Guys.

"What are you doing in here? You can't be in Five Guys," the president joked. "You're going to get in trouble!"

"No, we're fine," said the sandwich man. "Thank you, sir."

The chain is more than fine. It has experienced explosive growth since the first Subway restaurant opened in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1965. Last year Subway sold 2 billion sandwiches.

And it's not just because Subways can fit anywhere.

The chain runs a lot of ads.

"We do TV, radio, we do print, we do digital, we pretty much do anything we can think of," said Moody. "You need to bring it to the consumer in a compelling way that breaks through and gets them to change their behavior and come and visit us. So advertising is that last piece that gets people to come to us versus someplace else, so it's critical."

Subway: The Infamous Jeans

Any discussion of Subway's success invariably drifts back to its knight in shining armor, wielding not a sword but a pair of very big pants: Jared.

"I never expected to be doing this when I was in college and I weighed over 425 pounds. And had you said, 'Hey, in 10 or 11 years you're going to be the face of Subway. Not only will you have lost 245 pounds by eating their product, but you're gonna become the face of the brand,' I would probably have thought you were absolutely crazy," said Jared Fogel, whose smashing weight-loss success on a Subway diet led to his becoming a mainstay of the chain's ads.

Fogel's story is the stuff of advertising legend. As a student at Indiana University, he claimed he lost more than 200 pounds on a diet that consisted of Subway sandwiches. So Subway put him on TV, and hasn't taken him off. That was 10 years ago.

"I have the pants, of course!" said Fogel, brandishing a lot of denim." "These are the infamous jeans that, as I said, have become pretty much more famous than I am. If I don't make an event, it's OK, as long as the pants make it. ... These are the actual pants. You know, the ones I actually wore when I was at my largest."

Fogel takes his pants on the road 200 days a year, speaking to kids about nutrition, and of course throwing in some plugs for Subway.

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