Subway's New Deli Slicers Can Only Do So Much

Subway has switched to freshly sliced meat at all locations. Does it make a better sandwich?

The day has finally come: After first announcing the rollout in February, Subway has pushed out deli slicers to all of its stores and is now slicing meat on site at every shop. This change replaces pre-sliced sandwich meats and was made official starting yesterday, the culmination of Subway's $80 million investment in the slicers. Nearly 20,000 stores will now be slicing meat on the premises.

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A few items will still arrive at each location pre-sliced, including cheese, steak, and rotisserie chicken, but beyond that, all veggies and meat will now be prepped on location. The new machines, probably a relief to Subway franchisees and employees everywhere, are automatic. That means that after a hunk of meat is loaded into it, the machine will do the slicing itself rather than require an employee to push the handle back and forth.

A first look at Subway’s new deli meat slicers

I visited my nearest Subway location and confirmed the presence of the slicer, which was easily visible from the counter. Still shiny and new, it looked like a show piece. At some point a red light emanated from the knob on the front of the slicer, which drew my eye (unfortunately I couldn't catch when it did that on my phone). This seems like an intentional move to get customers' attention. I've operated a deli slicer before, and I've never seen one tricked out like this.

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Subway is offering new sandwiches to celebrate

In order to mark the momentous introduction of meat slicers, Subway has created a lineup of four new sandwiches comprising an entirely new category on the Subway Series menu called Deli Heroes. Some of them even feature extra meat, in what I'm guessing is a subtle nod to the powers of the deli slicer. The new sandwiches are:

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  • Grand Slam Ham: 33% more ham (than the Classic sandwich portion), double provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and mayo
  • Titan Turkey: 33% more turkey, double provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and mayo
  • Garlic Roast Beef: roast beef (regular portion), double provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and Roasted Garlic Aioli
  • The Beast: pepperoni, salami, turkey, ham and roast beef, which adds up to a half-pound of meat on a footlong, along with double provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayo, and vinaigrette

What do the new Subway sandwiches taste like?

I bought two of the new Subway sandwiches for lunch, and I tried to select the ones that feature the most differentiators from the classic lineup. This led me to The Beast (no connection to MrBeast) and the Garlic Roast Beef. The Beast, to which I added jalapeños and black olives for the hell of it, definitely felt like a hefty boy in comparison to the other, since it had a formidable half pound of meat on it (see photo at the top).

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For a deli sandwich, the footlong was substantial, and definitely something you and a friend could split for lunch. But considering the sub was loaded with such typically flavorful meats as pepperoni, salami, turkey, ham, and roast beef, nothing really stood out—I just felt like I was biting into a thick tube of generic deli meat, and I couldn't quite get a fix on any flavors in particular aside from salt. Even the vinaigrette was hardly noticeable.

My takeaway is that it was fine, but I'm not sure I would have noticed the difference between freshly sliced and pre-sliced meat if I hadn't seen the deli slicer in action myself. At least I could stare at its movements while my sandwich was being made. That was interesting.

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The Garlic Roast Beef, meanwhile, had some major issues. This one I ordered as is, dressed with everything that comes on it by default. To recap, that's a regular portion of roast beef, double provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and Roasted Garlic Aioli.

Texturally, this might have been the softest sandwich I've ever eaten—as in, my teeth just sunk straight into it and I barely had to chew. My fiancée noticed the same thing, unprompted, as she ate her half of the sandwich. I examined a bit of roast beef by itself and ate it, and it was indeed as soft as it had seemed amidst all the other ingredients. But unfortunately, "soft" is not the same thing as "yielding" or "tender," and you want beef to be one of the latter two.

I also couldn't quite get into the flavor of the garlic aioli, which was a little muted throughout. To be fair, that might have been because the softness of the sandwich was so distracting that I had a hard time focusing on anything else. To whatever extent it was detectable, the aioli tasted out of place, likely because garlic is not something I ever encounter in my typical Subway orders. For a differing opinion, you can read Today's take on the Garlic Roast Beef, which was much more favorable.

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If you're hoping that Subway's new deli slicers might transform the core product into a gourmet offering, you'll be disappointed. It's a shiny piece of equipment to look at behind the counter, but it can only change the meat (and by extension, the sandwiches) so much. Subway isn't vaulting its menu to the next level so much as it's playing catch-up with the competition.

 

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