Subway founder and CEO visits Tulsa

Friday, January 21st 2005, 10:43 am
By: News On 6

He's one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time. Subway founder Fred DeLuca has 22,000 restaurants in 70 countries.

So how did his Subway journey begin? And how did they find that Jared guy anyway? Fred DeLuca made a stop in Tulsa this week and News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg talked with him in an exclusive interview.

He doesn't look 57-years-old. He's friendly and modest. And like you might expect, he looks pretty trim. Maybe from eating his own subs. It all began in Connecticut in 1965. "This is our 40th anniversary. We started out with one store and it was totally by accident."

At the time, Deluca was really just interested in going to college. "I was a kid. I had just graduated from high school and I needed money for college. Talked to a family friend and asked him if he had any good ideas, kind of hoping he would lend me money." The family friend was Dr. Peter Buck. In fact, you'll still see the Doctor's Associates copyright on Subway napkins and cups. Instead of college, Dr. Buck encouraged DeLuca to start a sub shop instead. It was called Pete's after the good doctor. "He gave me $1,000 and I was off to seek my fortune."

So a 17-year-old kid took $1,000 and a single sub shop and turned it into a Subway empire. No tracks, no cars, but what a ride. With 22,000 restaurants, they recently passed McDonald's in the number of stores. "I'm amazed. I am totally amazed at how well we've done."

Lots of good things seem to happen by accident for DeLuca. Take the Jared phenomenon. One of the best fast-food sales pitches didn't come as a pitch and did you know, Jared was actually rejected at first.

Of course, it didn't all happen overnight. It took 22 years for Subway to get to their 1,000 store. Now, they open a thousand every year.

And by the way, DeLuca did eventually go to college. He got his bachelor's in psychology in 1971.