Food Fight: Is 'Footlong' Really Just About 12 Inches?


In an era where leading a healthy lifestyle is at the peak of public consciousness, voracious eaters take comfort — there’s a nationwide feud in the food industry over the term “footlong.” And, better yet, the healthy fast food alternative, Doctor’s Associates, Inc., better known as Subway, started it.

Foot-long Fever

Five years ago, Subway franchise owner Stuart Frankel of Miami, Fla., came up with a brilliant idea. He grew tired of the lag in sales on weekends in his Subway shop and decided to offer 12-inch sandwiches for a flat five dollars, marketed as “$5 Footlongs.” Soon, he had customers lining up out the door for what apparently was perceived to be a great deal. Subway’s chief of marketing learned of the $5 promotion deal that was such a hit in Florida and replaced Subway’s prior promotion strategy as the healthy alternative to greasy fast food options, which featured Jared Fogle as Subway’s spokesperson after having lost 245 pounds on an all-Subway diet. By early 2008, Subway was marketing the $5 footlong deal nationally with great success. During a time when everyone’s business was slow, Subway’s sales grew 17 percent in 2008.

Ironically, Subway’s new marketing campaign has, in fact, sent rippling effects among fast food chains to promulgate a whole line of foot-long sized food items of epic proportions. In 2010, Sonic added a $3 foot-long hot dog topped with hot chili and melted cheese to its menu. Sonic called it the “Footlong Quarter Pound Coney.” Carl’s Jr. Restaurants and its sister chain Hardee’s test marketed a foot-long cheeseburger in Southern California and Indiana last year. The cheeseburger contained three burger patties and three cheese slices and stirred quite a controversy with its 850 calories and 20 grams of saturated fat. And, not to be outdone, Quizno’s began a spicy 13-inch sandwich menu not too long thereafter, dubbed “Toasty Torpedoes.”

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