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Subway's Fred DeLuca dies at 67


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Fred DeLuca during FT's last interview with the co-founder of Subway.

Fred DeLuca, the co-founder of the largest restaurant chain by units in the world, Subway, died Monday at the age of 67, just weeks after celebrating his company’s 50th anniversary.

DeLuca founded Subway when he was 17 with funds from a family friend, Dr. Peter Buck, a nuclear engineer. DeLuca was originally looking for money for college, but Buck challenged him to start a sub shop. DeLuca grew the single store named Pete’s Super Submarines, to worldwide sales of $18.2 billion and 43,154 units as Subway, according to figures from Franchise Times Top 200+ ranking. 

He pioneered the "point-and-serve" method that allowed customers to customize their sandwiches by pointing to the display of ingredients and choosing their own toppings.

DeLuca was known as a strong, opinionated leader who liked to be involved in all aspects of the company, which could at times create a rub with franchisees. When he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, he named his sister, Suzanne Greco, to run the day-to-day operations.

Throughout the years, DeLuca’s journey has been documented in a variety of articles in Franchise Times. In 2003, he was the subject of a cover story by Julie Bennett, titled “A Wild Ride: Subway’s Rise to Respectability.”

He was active in the International Franchise Association—but chose a sideline position. Up-and-coming franchisors mentioned to me on more than one occasion how impressed they were that someone of DeLuca’s stature would take the time to talk to them. He would walk the halls, amicable to people stopping him to both compliment him on his business acumen and ask for advice.

While Jared Fogle was Subway’s pitchman, DeLuca was the brand’s face in the franchise community. During the last interview I had with him in April 2013, DeLuca was modest when I brought up his celebrity status. He grudgingly conceded that perhaps at IFA he was a big deal, but that no one at his local grocery store knew who he was.

The company issued a statement about Fred DeLuca’s passing through its PR agency,  saying: “Out of respect for the DeLuca and entire SUBWAY family, the brand will not be providing a spokesperson to comment further on this news at this time.” Here's the statement from headquarters:

Fred DeLuca, co-founder of one of the world’s most well-known brands died Monday evening at the age of 67 just weeks after celebrating the business’ 50th anniversary. DeLuca and his business partner Dr. Peter Buck opened their submarine sandwich in Connecticut in 1965 when DeLuca was only 17 years old.

In 2013 while doing what he loved best, traveling around to visit with franchisees, DeLuca fell ill and was ultimately diagnosed with leukemia. Since that time he had been receiving treatments and still overseeing the brand as CEO, but he recently named his sister, Suzanne Greco, as president to run the day-to-day operations.

DeLuca was an active member of the International Franchise Association, a recipient of numerous awards and accolades. He was a supporter of many charitable organizations focused mainly on those that promoted self- sufficiency and education programs.

He was an extremely ambitious businessman, a bright and analytical thinker and was even a member of Mensa.

DeLuca leaves behind his wife, sister, son and members of his extended family- the thousands of team members that make up the Subway brand all over the world. He was always very proud of the work of his HQ staff and thousands of developers, franchisees, Sandwich Artists, suppliers and partners who he often and affectionately called 'The Greatest Team in Franchising History.'"

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 

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