Save the Deli

Jewish Star: Kosher Subways hit roadblocks

A few months back, someone interviewed me about the significance of Subway opening a kosher store. Now, someone interviewed me on the significance of Subway closing a kosher store in Queens (different location). I personally could care less about Subway, one way or another, but some of you have strong opinions on it. Is kosher Subway a force for good? Or evil? Or meh?

In a story from the Jewish Star, of Long Island:

Kosher Subways hit roadblock
By Michael Orbach

Some latter-day Biblical critics have suggested that Jews and deli may have been the 11th Commandment. Broad generalities aside, given the Jewish fondness for pastrami on club and its sandwich siblings, who would think that a kosher Subway franchise in a heavily Jewish neighborhood could be a bad idea?

Alas, reality is bitter. Two kosher versions of the national restaurant chain have failed in this region. A Subway on Ave. J in Midwood, blocks from the real subway, closed months ago; the other, on Central Avenue in Cedarhurst, shut last month.

“A lot of that is related to our inability to take advantage of the economies of scale,” explained Les Winograd, a spokesman for Subway. Each restaurant is individually owned but franchisees tap into the collective buying power of 23,000 stores in the U.S., said Winograd. That is of limited value to kosher stores.

“With kosher locations we have to source kosher products from suppliers that are in the region, and so they only might be providing food for a very small number of locations,” he said. “Also, for a kosher store to be operating, it has to follow local rabbinical supervision and go to a different supplier than one in another area.”

The store’s owner then goes on to blame the local kosher authorities for ruining his business, and the Vaad tosses the blame back his way. But there’s more interesting stuff further down, about the failure of kosher fast food outlets worldwide:

“I think it was a fad,” Krevat said of a kosher Subway. “When we landed in Israel the first place my daughter wanted to go was Burger King. It’s a forbidden fruit. That will get you trial but unless you can deliver a fair product at a fair price, it isn’t going to last.”

As it happens, Orgad Holdings, which owns the Burger King franchise rights in Israel, announced this week that its 55 locations would become Burger Ranch restaurants this summer.

My own opinion? I really don’t think the fate of Subways make any difference in the greater Jewish food story. It has nothing to do with our traditions, our flavors, or our communities. It’s just business. Brought in, made kosher, and then just trying to survive like everyone else. There’s a lot of people in the kosher world who think that fast food style service, operations, and franchises will save kosher delicatessens. They all realize that there’s no magic answer. At the end of the day, people will go to a kosher Subway (or McDonalds, Burger King, etc…) the first time out of curiosity. But to get them to come back, you have to serve good food for a price that people are willing to pay.

6 Responses to “Jewish Star: Kosher Subways hit roadblocks”

  1. trb Says:

    pardon my ignorance, but what’s a Vaad exactly, (a rabbi?)

  2. David Says:

    In the past a shopper had to watch the butcher to make sure his thumb wasn’t on the scale along with the meat you were buying. Today it’s not the butchers thumb but all of the Rabbi’s that have watched the meat from the farm to the scale and it has added too much to the cost of kosher meat and the cost of keeping kosher.

    I can get Kosher boneless rib eye steaks for $19.99 lb or non-kosher for $5.99 lb. Kosher Chicken @ for $2.99 or non-kosher chicken for $0.79 lb on sale. Kosher Brisket $12.99-15.99 lb or non-kosher for $1.79 lb.

    The cost of keeping kosher is too costly, especially in the hard times we are going through.

  3. Michael Says:

    There is a kosher Subway at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville, Md. It is expensive compared to a regular Subway.

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  6. Joshua Says:

    @Trb: A Vaad is a council of rabbis, often and in this case one that acts as a kosher supervision organization.

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