New York – Kosher Subways Hit Roadblock

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    New York – 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.”

    Israeli-born Avi Paner, who bought the Subway franchise on Central Avenue in November and closed it in April, learned the hard way. For his troubles, Paner blamed the Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway.

    “They destroyed my place,” he lamented, claiming that the Vaad didn’t like the idea of a kosher Subway and spread rumors that the store was not kosher.

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    53 COMMENTS

    1. “They destroyed my place,” he lamented, claiming that the Vaad didn’t like the idea of a kosher Subway and spread rumors that the store was not kosher.

      I wish it weren’t so easy to believe this.

    2. This article missed a whole bunch of subways that shut down. Downtown Manhattan, 2 in Brooklyn, 1 in New Rochelle, another in the Upper West Side in Manhattan didn’t open.

      Its been much more of a failure than anything else.

      Subway’s are normally “family businesses” that a person works really hard and makes a decent living, not something you get rich off of.

      But when you have to hire a full time mashgiach, costing at least 75k a year and are closed 15% of the week, there goes the entire subway profit margine. Add in that you have to pay close to 10% to the Subway Corporation. You have to charge hefty prices, for food that is no better and isn’t as tasty as any other kosher take out place.

      So in a place where there is competition they will close down.

      Only in places like Baltimore, and Cleveland are they doing well, since they are kosher places that are clean, that serve food that is decent (not neccesarrily good). Plus in Cleveland and Baltimore, there is limited competition for those sorts of food.

      Its really another way for Subway to get new franchises, and another way for “kosher marketers” to make a buck off of suckers.

    3. “claiming that the Vaad didn’t like the idea of a kosher Subway and spread rumors that the store was not kosher. “

      Why in the world would the Vaad “spread rumors” that a restaurant they supervise would be traif????? Does that make sense? MAYBE he failed because there are 20 better places to eat in a 2 block radius, including right next door. MAYBE he failed because the Five Towns is NOT Cleveland, and we just don’t like the fare at Subway, especially when we have so many better options. Man-up Mr. Paner, and stop blaming others for your failure. I was surprised you lasted so long.

        • Carlos and Gabby’s has horrible service. Walked in and walked out twice without even ordering. At least the service at Subway was good. No obnoxious young girl at the counter on her cell phone!

      • What kind of maares eyien issue might there be if the store has a sign in the front window showing a top line hasgacha. Maybe someone walking by will think that the customers are being too machmir??

    4. We love the one in Kansas City! We don’t live there but always eat at least one meal when we come in to visit family.

      They are in a business park and get a lot of non-kosher customers. They also provide boxed meals and catering for kosher and non-kosher events, and they provide the kosher meals for some area hospitals.

    5. If the vaad was motzei laz on a talmid chachom like Moshe Soloveichik, why is too hard to believe they would be motzei laz on this guy?! But at the same time they had a financial reason to be motzei laz on Soloveichik-they wanted a part of Streit’s, whereas in the case of subway they already had the business…tzarich Iyun

    6. The one on Avenue J was right next door to Kosher Delight, which has a similar menu, but is more attuned to classic “Jewish” tastes. I can’t say I’m surprised that Subway failed there.

    7. Th unfortunate reason the Ave J one closed was b/c the food wasn’t good….in contrast, the Baltimore Kosher Subway is phenomenal, great meat and alot of things on the menu!

      • I agree I always had a stomach ache after eating on the one on J, so I just stopped going. There are many more options for take-out in that area

      • By that reasoning if I were to open a shoe repair shop and I wasn’t one of the Top Ten graduates of the Research Institute @ the National Academy of shoe repair Science, and my business would fail (ch”v), who would I blame?! The Professors at the College!

    8. At one point there was a kosher Subway on Water Street in downtown NYC. That owner was so frugal. My sandwich consisted of only one very thin slice of pastrami smothered in lettuce. I assume lettuce was very cheap that day! I should have taken that sandwich and shoved it up his nostrils. I am happy that they closed down. They were stealing money from customers. Nobody wants to pay 8 dollars for a lettuce sandwich.

    9. I’m pretty sure that the Cedarhurst Subway was actually under the 5Towns Va’ad – they’re almost as much of a “mafia” as Queens, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – so it makes no sense that they would’ve spread rumors to close the store. (If I’m wrong about who’s Hasgacha it was under, please correct me.)

    10. One more Far Rockaway – 5 Towns va’ad point:

      I wouldn’t exactly trust the “Jewish” Star for unbiased reporting with regard to what happens in the more westerly sections of their coverage area.

    11. The reason it failed is because they are horrible. All it is is a take out store with some begguets and some cold cuts to dump on it. The name subway alone isnt gonna turn that in to gold. What wud be attractive is to have the creative subway sandwiches in a kosher way. Like a meatball marinara with fake cheese or something. It has to be diffrent and exotic to the kosher market. Otheriwse its just a cold cut store and just becasue its labeled subway aint gonna cut it.

    12. Ave J died because of the exsessive rent. A dozen stores are empty on the short stretch between CIA and the B line – 5 blocks, only one Shomer Shabbos grocery store left out of three, the Shomer shabbos hardware store forced to close after 35 years because of the rent, etc, etc. Sad very sad.

      • I totally agree with you….. and the sad thing is the samething is happening to 13th Ave for every store that closes another bank opens up… The rent is unreal in the Jewish neighborhoods…. nebach a yid lost a parnassah….

    13. when the on avenue j first opened up, they made a good sandwich with plenty of meat, even though it was a bit pricey, and i came back many times, after a few months the sandwich bearly had meat in it. For a 6 dollar sandwich i am willing to put up with a minimum acceptable level of meat, but for the amount they were charging, i could get a big fat deli sandwich at kosher delight next door that tasted better. When i was not keeping kosher the draw of subway besides having choices with salad was cheap food. If you’re going to charge me i can get better food at a higher price…

    14. There is a quote in this article:

      “It was really not such a big deal,” said David Sax, author of Saving the Deli, a history of the Jewish delicatessen. “It may be officially kosher but it’s spiritually traife.”

      Am I missing something? Can somebody please explain to me what he means by that? Thanks!

      • What he means is that subway is not an authentic Jewish deli. Subway is styled like an Italian deli, that happens to be kosher (think Mcdonalds in Israel). An authentic Jewish deli smokes and brines its own meats, sells things like chopped liver, and smoked fish, and tends to make everything in house.

      • He means nothing. He wrote a book about deli, as if there was something uniquely Jewish about it, so he he’s invested in a whole theory of yiddishkeit which has no basis.

        • I don’t know about the book.. (that he wrote.) But the very idea and setup of the “Deli” (which is short for Delicatessen) is an idea that is derived from Eastern European immigrants in the last Century +! It (unofficially) turned into a tradition with the unique and tasty line of foods. It is essentially a form of nostalgia. That is what kept the customers coming back. Same as with Italian restaurants. The particular food and the atmosphere is what keeps ’em coming.

    15. Why are you believing this mans seemingly ridiculous accusations? A Vaad of Rabbonim who already had his business spread rumors? If they did spread rumors then I believe that this store owner was not keeping in line of Kosher standards. What idiocy to believe his claims. He failed and won’t take the blame for it. He’s a loser and you are anti Rabbanim.

    16. The bottom line is that Subway does not sell good food. They sell cheap, processed, skimpy, tasteless sandwiches that should sell for no more than — how does the commercial go again? Oh yes; five-dollar-foot long. The problem is that kosher ingredients cost more and an otherwise mediocre fast-food meal is priced at a 100% premium.

    17. If the place can’t make it then it should close or stay open & lose money. Most restaurants or eateries DON’T survive so why is this different??

    18. I live in the 5 towns and I don’t know anyone who liked Subway’s food. They used poor quality meat and put very little meat and vegetables on the sandwich. In contrast there are many other places nearby where you can pay the same price for more and better food. People went to Subway for the name and stopped going when they realized the food was horrible and overpriced. To blame the Vaad is ridiculous and besides I never heard any rumors that there were kashrus issues there.

    19. One of the problems with the one on Avenue J is the high number of kosher restaurants in the area.They need to open kosher restaurants where there is no competition. There are a number of places in New York that could benefit from having a kosher restaurant, including Grand Central Station and La Guardia airport.

      • Grand Central already has Mendy’s, both milchig and fleishig. At LGA and JFK there are kosher sandwiches at Cibo outlets in the concourses, but they could takeh use a kosher place in the food courts. In the international terminal at JFK there used to be a kosher deli in the food court, and you’d think it would do good business, but it closed 2002 or 2003, and nobody seems to have been able to open one since. For a short while there were kosher vending machines, but they were removed, I assume because they weren’t doing enough business. I guess the yidden are just used to bringing their own food to the airport.

    20. Honestly I ate there once ( in Cedarhurst ) and I was mamash disgusted with the food. I had to go next door to burgers bar and eat dinner a second time.

    21. I commute from Lakewood to Brooklyn for work. I eat over by Ave J a lot. The Ave J Kosher Subway was terrible. I once ordered the Shawarma and it was barely edible. It cost me $12 for my lousy sandwich. I could have gotten something way better for that price! Carlos and Gabbys is nothing special either. It is all fried and completely unauthentic. Not to mention I hated getting up every ten minutes to get pieces of my order.

      The pizza place on Ave J is good so is Mendy’s. The bagel shop is also pretty good. The Shawarma place there very good. Honestly Teaneck has a lot more restaurants to offer than Ave J.

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