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MILFORD, CT-For a chain the size of Subway, which currently has about 18,000 locations in the United States and a total of about 22,000 worldwide, the question is often, Where next? The answer is often, Not where you’d expect.

In September 2004, the sandwich, salad and wrap chain opened 175 new restaurants, a fairly typical number of openings in any given month. Many of them were in “traditional” locations, such as strip centers, outlots and street corners. But if you happened to want a Subway sandwich and you happened to have just finished working out at the Louisiana Athletic Club in Pineville, LA, you’d be in luck. That was one of the non-traditional locations that Subway opened in September.

“The company has been opening restaurants in non-traditional sites for several years now,” Les Winograd, a spokesman for the sandwich giant, told GSR. “It’s an integral part of our growth strategy. It’s a way of going to where customers go, of being more convenient.”

All together, the company counts about 4,300 of its stores as non-traditional. Besides the addition of a Subway at a health club in Louisiana in September, the chain also opened at two colleges, California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA, and Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC; a couple of Wal-Marts, one in Elkhart, IN, the other in Okeechobee, FL; two hospitals, Carraway Methodist Medical Center in Birmingham, AL, and Mount Carmel East Hospital in Columbus, OH. For travelers wanting something more North American at Cancun International Airport, Subway is now there, and students at South Anchorage High School in Alaska can eschew cafeteria fare in favor of subs.

“We open a list like this every month,” notes Winograd. “Partly it’s because we study where people go and where they are when they’re going to eat, and that includes a lot more places than shopping centers or street corners, as important as they are.”

He adds that finding a non-traditional location for a sandwich shop is often a function of entrepreneurs or companies approaching the chain and asking either for a franchise, or to lease to a franchisee. “Some time ago, we had a gentleman approach us about opening a Subway in his convenience store chain, and that was such a success that we now have about 2,000 locations in convenience stores,” Winograd tells GSR. “We’re flexible, and willing to give serious consideration to any serious proposal. We have a national name, even an international name, and people want to be part of it.”

The chain’s fondness for convenience stores and truck stops/travel centers was apparent in September, when it opened shops in 14 such locations, including sites at Big R, Chevron, Circle K, Citgo, Mobil, Shell, Sunoco and others in the United States, plus one at a BP truck stop in Adelaide, South Australia.

The Australian opening wasn’t unusual, but part of a concerted effort to expand internationally. In fact, the chain opened 15 other sites in Australia during the month, along with nine in Germany and seven in the United Kingdom, and smaller numbers in places such as Brazil, China, Guatemala, Mexico, Norway and New Zealand. The chain also went somewhere new during the month, opening for the first time on the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.

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