Response Crafting

Teach your team how to talk

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Some Subway locations have introduced a falafel sandwich. The pilot stores seem sparse – of the half dozen in my area, only one is currently offering them.

I think the falafel sandwich has the potential to become a valuable product in the Subway offering. It seems, however, that Subway may not have invested the necessary attention in its roll-out.

Firstly, it seems that the staff may not have had sufficient training on the new product
On a recent trip to a Subway carrying it, I overheard a customer behind me in line ask what a falafel was. The Subway employee answered, simply: “it’s like the veggie patty.”

From a (semi-)vegetarian’s standpoint, the falafel seems like a worthy substitution for the veggie patty, which I suspect was never received well. (It’s not specified on the menu, I myself have only ordered it once, and I have never overheard anybody else request it.) If the falafel is indeed being positioned as a substitution, however, it wont succeed if it is explained as being similar to a product customers didnt embrace.

That aside, this explanation risks isolating meat eaters – many non-vegetarians enjoy falafel and would respond well to being introduced to it, assuming it’s not presented as a “veggie patty!” (I don’t even think vegetarians necessarily find the term “veggie patty” to be appetizing. I know I don’t.)  

Lastly, falafel is chickpea/fava. Employees should know this and be able to articulate it.

Second, the marketing seems askew
Many people know what they’re going to order at Subway before they even walk in the door. They’ve certainly figured it out by the time they place their order which, during busy hours, is a few steps before they see the ingredients available and several more before they read all the signage. Some of us, though, approach the ordering process with an open mind, and are often interested in trying new things.

The first time I tried Subway’s falafel, it was the trip after I realized they were offering it. This is because Subway positioned the “falafel” marketing material at the end of the line, above the cash register. At this point in the process, customers have already committed to their meal and paid for it. Even people who are eager to try the falafel sandwich – like me – are forced to wait until next time. What if “next time” is next month?

That aside, I haven’t seen any commercials for falafel. Maybe Subway is waiting to see how it’s received before they roll out marketing on television, but I was surprised that the customer behind me in line had to tell me, by asking what falafel was, that the option existed. (She saw the signage before I did.) We all know how much their footlong costs, and by now many of us realize that Subway has fresh avocado. So why is the falafel a secret?

In short, I love the falafel. I did finally get back to try it – and I was so eager to do so, I went out of my way (passing up two closer Subways) to make it happen. My verdict on the actual product is positive: I would eagerly accept it as a cheaper version of a falafel available elsewhere (which is Subway’s positioning in its other sandwiches) and would likely order it every few times I ate at one of their locations. It’s a lot better-tasting than the veggie patty, but offers more substance than veggies alone. So, from my standpoint, it’s a good product.

The only problem, ironically, is Subway’s final commitment to the roll-out process: telling the customer about it.
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