by Stephanie Overby

Tablet App Lets Subway Find the Best Sandwich Artists

Oct 30, 20133 mins
MobileRetail IndustrySmall and Medium Business

Subway's tablet apps attract more job candidates and help franchisees streamline the hiring process.

A good sandwich artist is hard to find. With a workforce that’s largely young and transient, finding reliable hourly employees is one of the biggest difficulties that Subway restaurant franchisees face. “It’s a challenge for the entire quick-service restaurant industry–finding, interviewing and hiring good people,” says George Labelle, CIO of Independent Purchasing Cooperative (IPC), a nonprofit organization owned by Subway franchisees that manages purchasing, supply chain and IT for 29,200 U.S. and Canadian restaurants.

Three years ago, IPC developed MySubwayCareer, a Web portal where people can apply for jobs at up to 15 restaurants at once. IPC partnered with Chequed, a developer of pre-employment screening software, to incorporate an assessment tool. Applicants answer 80 to 100 questions like, “Your manager tells you to mop the floor and a customer complains that his sandwich is cold. What do you do first?” and the software rates candidates on a scale of one to five. Franchisees, meanwhile, use the portal to process applications and print suggested interview questions.

But missing the mobile piece diminished the pool of applicants Subway attracted, so IPC launched a tablet version of MySubwayCareer this year. But 100-question assessments aren’t exactly tablet-friendly: Going mobile meant rethinking what was already a decent system, says Labelle.

Know Your Audience

IPC considered the different needs of job applicants and franchisees, who own an average of five restaurants each. The team used agile development processes and got frequent feedback from a core franchisee group. They also conducted a focus group with local high school students.

“A 40-year-old franchisee from Pakistan interacts with technology very differently than a 17-year-old high school student from Ann Arbor,” says Labelle. A franchisee working 80 hours a week wants data as fast as possible, so IPC simplified the navigation. “For a teenager, it’s much more about the experience,” he says. “Does this look cool?”

Within a month of releasing the tablet version, Subway saw a 30 percent increase in applications. Today, 16 percent of Subway’s total 32,000 job applications each week are mobile.

With lots of fresh data from the busy mobile system, IPC tested the effectiveness of the assessment tool and found its predictions were between 80 percent and 90 percent accurate. Next, Labelle wants to integrate the Web portal and tablet application with Subway’s homegrown point-of-sale system, which serves as employees’ time clock and feeds the payroll system.

The company could take its analysis further, says Eric Siegel, author of Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie or Die. By adding job performance and longevity measures to the original Web or tablet data, he says, Subway could learn which attributes matter most in a job applicant. Adding data from the tablet system enriches Subway’s analysis, Siegel says. “If you have more fishing poles, you will catch more fish.”

Stephanie Overby is regular contributor to’s IT Outsourcing section. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.