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Subway’s DeLuca Sees Sandwich Chain Expanding to 50,000 Shops

Subway, the closely held restaurant-chain that has more locations than McDonald’s Corp., will have about 50,000 in four years as it speeds growth abroad.

“Around 2017 or something like that, we’ll have about 50,000 stores in operation,” Fred DeLuca, president and co-founder of the sandwich shop, said during a telephone interview. Subway, based in Milford, Connecticut, and owned by Doctor’s Associates Inc., has about 38,800 locations worldwide.

Subway, which has attracted customers with lower-calorie and reduced-sodium sandwiches, is expanding in Asian markets, DeLuca said. The chain, which is competing with Yum! Brands Inc. in India, China and Japan, is planning to open 300 stores in each of the three nations during the next three years, DeLuca said.

“Once you get a name brand and traction, it’s relatively easy to expand,” he said. “The big limitation when we start to grow quickly is location.”

The sandwich shop still lags behind Yum in Asian markets. It has 334 stores in India, 368 in China and 405 in Japan, according to its website. Yum, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut, has about 590 stores in India and more than 5,200 in China.

DeLuca, 65, opened the first Subway store in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1965. Since then, the chain has expanded through franchising and has units in about 100 countries. McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain by sales, had 34,480 units at the end of 2012.

This year, Subway will open about 3,000 new locations globally, compared with about 2,800 last year, DeLuca said. Total store sales increased 9 percent to $18.1 billion last year, compared with $16.6 billion in 2011, said Les Winograd, a Subway spokesman.

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