Boycott Subway Calls Grow as Company Continues Doing Business in Russia

More than 400 of the biggest companies in the world—including Netflix, Spotify and Ikea—have reacted to mounting international pressure to suspend or withdraw their business from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Some giant multinational chains, like McDonalds, Starbucks and Burger King, have temporarily halted operations there, sending a strong signal of their support for Ukraine.

But not Subway.

With 446 franchised shops across the country, Subway is so far refusing to sever ties with Russia.

Customers across the world have not taken the company's decision well.

Calls to boycott Subway have been spreading like wildfire on social media, with Twitter users declaring their surprise at finding the company in the list of businesses refusing to quit Russia.

"Never will I eat there again!" tweeted @yankeemommy1.

"I haven't been to a Subway forever, now I'll never go back to one!" echoed @Wenlindy.

Some are more conflicted. "Oh, crap! Subway is one of my favorite fast food places. Boycotting gets complicated sometimes," tweeted @physicsmom1.

Some users complained that a boycott would only hurt local franchise owners already hit by sanctions, instead of punishing the company itself.

"Subway has no corporate operations in Russia," reads a statement from the company.

"There are approximately 450 franchised restaurants in Russia which are all independently owned and operated by local franchisees and managed by an independent master franchisee.

"We don't directly control these independent franchisees and their restaurants, and have limited insight into their day-to-day operations."

Other companies which function on a franchise-basis—like Starbucks and Burger King—have suspended business in Russia. Starbucks has temporarily closed its 130 licensed locations in the country and Burger King halted operations in its almost 800 franchises.

Yum! Brands, which operates 1,000 franchised KFC locations and several Pizza Huts in Russia, has also stopped supporting those restaurants.

Papa John's has likewise suspended all corporate operations in Russia, including those supporting its independent franchisees.

In the cases of both Burger King and Papa John's, the companies each have one independent franchisee they said they are unable to shut down.

Subway said that it will redirect any profits from operations in Russia to "humanitarian efforts supporting Ukrainians who have been affected by the war" and that it's working to provide meals for Ukrainian refugees in its franchises across Europe.

But that's also what companies who have already suspended operations in Russia—Starbucks and Burger King—have committed to do.

In his speech to Congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for Americans to stop buying products that are funding Vladimir Putin's invasion of Russia. In a passionate speech, he called for all American companies to "leave Russia" and "leave their market immediately because it's flooded with our blood."

U.S. politician Jon Cooper tweeted, that same Ukrainian blood is now spreading on Subway's "footlong sandwiches."

Subway is not the only company shying away from concrete action in Russia.

A list of big corporate exits from Russia compiled by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute shows that around 30 major firms continue to do business there.

Newsweek reached out to Subway for comment and got redirected to the company's previously mentioned published statement.

Subway sandwich boycott
A Subway sandwich is seen in a restaurant in Miami, Florida. The company has committed to donate its profits as humanitarian aid for Ukraine, but has fallen short of suspending business in Russia. Joe Raedle/Getty Images