I was in Houston airport the other day on a layover on a family trip and needed to get a quick lunch before our next flight. My daughter spotted a Subway restaurant so we went there and got sandwiches. When we sat down, I saw something I don’t think I ever saw before.
There were 4 napkins with my 6-inch Subway sandwich!
I’m fairly certain that getting 2 napkins with a Subway sandwich would only happen via a training accident, but 4 was something that must happen with less frequency than Haley’s comet.
After considering this as a potential sign of good fortune (maybe it was since we reached our final destination without a meltdown), I started to revisit a thought I had back when was I known to get Subway’s daily special four days /wk. I skipped Fridays because I wasn’t sold on the looks of the tuna. I’ve since concluded that the tuna is actually underrated, but that’s neither here nor there.
That question was why is Subway so stingy with EVERYTHING, including the napkins?
My theory is it comes down to supply chain management. I did some quick searching to see how much a restaurant napkin costs. I saw some priced at $0.08/each if bought in orders of 7500 or more. I imagine Subway can get the price lower than that, so let’s call it $0.01 to be contrastive.
McDonalds boasts serving 69 million daily customers. Subway’s customer stats aren’t publicly available, but I’m going to take an assumption that they have at least 1/3 of the worldwide customers of McDonalds (23 million).
That means by monitoring consumption of napkins and limiting patrons to one napkin instead of four with each Subway sandwich saves them 23 million * $0.03 ($0.01 * 3 napkins) = $690,000 PER DAY, which comes out to roughly $250 million per year. I understand subways are franchised and individually owned, but those numbers speak for themselves.
After doing that math, I almost understand why they give me that look when I ask for a little extra tomato.
The moral of the story here: don’t lose sight of the little things in your business (or career)…they can add up to a (very) big thing.