Subway Has Found The Exec To Take Digital Experience To The Next Level

May 18, 2021
BY Peter High Founder and President of Metis Strategy
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Subway restaurants announced that Donagh Herlihy has joined the company as of May 3 as its new Global Chief Digital and Information Officer. In his new role, Herlihy will oversee the company’s global technology teams and initiatives to deliver modern, timely and effective platforms for Subway franchisees and guests.

Herlihy has held technology, digital and e-commerce executive roles at companies like Bloomin’ Brands, Avon Products and the Wrigley Company. His expertise includes digital innovation and strategy, guest-facing technology and international growth.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Donagh to the Subway team,” said Subway Chief Executive Officer John Chidsey. “His extensive knowledge and understanding of QSR brands and restaurant technology will allow us to accelerate our digital transformation, ultimately resulting in a better guest experience as well as revenue growth and operating efficiency for our franchisees.”

Herlihy left his prior post as Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Digital Officer at Bloomin’ Brands in February of 2020, and had been spending time on a portfolio of activities from investing in start-ups and serving on the boards of various companies. He was lured back into a full time role as a technology and digital executive because of Subway’s transformation story which is unfolding, including significant improvements to the digital experience for both guests and franchisees, enhancements to the Subway App & Delivery, the company’s loyalty program, and other digital platforms that will allow Subway to personalize guests’ experience over time. “My most immediate goal, in partnership with the technology leadership team and the broader organization, is to plot that path forward to ensure we meet the needs of our evolving business,” said Herlihy. “That being said, we also need to remain focused on simplifying and reinforcing the core systems that enable our Franchisees to run a smooth and efficient operation—that in itself is a significant effort given that we have nearly 40,000 stores in our system.”

Furthermore his interregnum between full-time roles started at the beginning of the pandemic through to last week. That gave him an opportunity to analyze the reset in consumer behaviors that has happened during the pandemic. As a result, he is a believer in serving Subway customers when, where and how they like, while equipping franchisees with the tools they need to drive traffic to their restaurants. “Before I arrived at Subway, the team drove incredible growth in our digital business with sales increasing over 115% year-over-year, and this momentum has continued as consumer behavior evolves even further,” noted Herlihy. “One component of this growth was the launch of Contactless Curbside Pick Up at over 14,000 of our Subway locations nationwide, at the pace of 1,800 restaurants per week—a massive undertaking from both a technology and broader operations perspective.”

When asked about his plans for the future, he noted that the company’s digital roadmap is focused on the guest with the priority of meeting customers where they are. “That means exciting non-traditional programs in the pipeline, efforts to bolster our loyalty program, which grew considerably in 2020 to more than 27 million, and significant enhancements to the ordering experience that are making it even easier for guests to enjoy their favorite Footlong,” said Herlihy by way of offering examples.

Herlihy has been based in Florida since joining Bloomin’ Brands. He will maintain a home there and split his time between is home office and the company’s headquarters in Milford, Connecticut.

Peter High is President of  Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He has written two bestselling books, and his third, Getting to Nimble, was recently released. He also moderates the Technovation podcast series and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.

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