3.1 Evaluating the External Environment

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to understand and articulate answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the general environment and why is it important to organizations?
  2. What are the features of Porter’s five forces industry analysis?
  3. What are strategic groups and how are they useful to evaluating the environment?

Subway Is on a Roll


As shown in the highlighted countries, Subway is well on its way to building a worldwide sandwich empire.

Many observers were stunned in March 2011 when news broke that Subway had surpassed McDonald’s as the biggest restaurant chain in the world. At the time of the announcement, Subway had 33,749 units under its banner while McDonald’s had 32,737 (Kingsley, 2011). Despite its meteoric growth, many opportunities remained. In China, for example, Subway had fewer than two hundred stores. In contrast, China hosts more than 3,200 Kentucky Fried Chicken stores. Overall, Subway was on a roll, and this success seemed likely to continue.

How had Subway surpassed a global icon like McDonald’s? One key factor was Subway’s efforts to provide and promote healthy eating options. This emphasis took hold in the late 1990s when the American public became captivated by college student Jared Fogle. As a freshman at Indiana University in 1998, the 425 pound Fogle decided to try to lose weight by walking regularly and eating a diet consisting of Subway subs. Amazingly, Fogle dropped 245 pounds by February of 1999.

Subway executives knew that a great story had fallen into their laps. They decided to feature Fogle in Subway’s advertising and soon he was a well-known celebrity. In 2007, Fogle met with President Bush about nutrition and testified before the US Congress about the need for healthier snack options in schools. Today, Fogle is the face of Subway and one of the few celebrities that are instantly recognizable based on his first name alone. Much like Beyoncé and Oprah, you can mention “Jared” to almost anyone in America and that person will know exactly of whom you are speaking. Subway’s line of Fresh Fit sandwiches is targeted at prospective Jareds who want to improve their diets.

Because American diets contain too much salt, which can cause high blood pressure, salt levels in restaurant food are attracting increased scrutiny. Subway responded to this issue in April 2011 when its outlets in the United States reduced the amount of salt in all its sandwiches by at least 15 percent without any alteration in taste. The Fresh Fit line of sandwiches received a more dramatic 28 percent reduction in salt. These changes were enacted after customers of Subway’s outlets in New Zealand and Australia embraced similar adjustments. Although the new sandwich recipes cost slightly more than the old ones, Subway plans to absorb these costs rather than raising their prices (Riley, 2011). This may be a wise strategy for retaining customers, who have become very price sensitive because of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the American economy and the high unemployment.


Kingsley, P. 2011, March 9. How a sandwich franchise ousted McDonald’s. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/mar/09/subway-biggest -fast-food-chain.

Riley, C. 2011, April. Subway lowers salt in its sandwiches. CNNMoney. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2011/04/18/news/companies/subway_salt/index.htm.

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