Raleigh franchisee expands downtown Subway empire

david.bracken@newsobserver.comJanuary 3, 2013 

With the opening of a new Subway franchise on Fayetteville Street, downtown Raleigh workers now have three Subways to choose from.

And they’re all owned by the same man: Rashid Salahat.

Although one might think the new store will simply cannibalize sales at Salahat’s existing stores, he says that type of thinking misunderstands the business.

The new store, which takes space vacated by Port City Java, is larger, nicer and more centrally located than his stores on Salisbury Street and in City Market.

“There’s only so much you can do in a small location,” he says.

It would be unwise to bet against Salahat based on his track record as a Subway franchisee. The 45-year-old native of Palestine arrived in the Triangle in 1990 planning to become a doctor. But after war broke out in his home country he lost the financial support of his family and realized that he would never be able to afford medical school.

After stints working at Burger King and elsewhere, Salahat ended up managing a Subway in Cary for four years. He paid $15,000 – two-thirds of it put on a credit card – to open his first Subway in Haw River in 1997.

Today Salahat, who is married with four children, owns six Subways: the three in downtown, one on Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh, one in Creedmoor and one in Butner. The stores take in a total of more than $3 million in revenue annually and employ roughly 50 people.

“I believe in the brand,” Salahat says of Subway, which replaced McDonald’s as the world’s largest restaurant chain in 2011.

The new Fayetteville Street store also reflects Salahat’s belief that he knows what the customer wants. Its service counter is set at an angle, enabling it to stretch further and accommodate more customers. There’s also an express lane and a flat screen TV. The store is open later (midnight on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends) to cater to the growing late-night crowds downtown.

On New Year’s Eve, Salahat says, the new store served more than a thousand people.

“It was crazy,” he said Thursday as regulars stopped by to congratulate him on his latest expansion.

As for his other stores, Salahat says, business is down only about 10 percent since he opened at the new location. He expects the new store to take in three times the revenue of his existing stores. He’s also in lease negotiations to move the Salisbury Street store to a better location.

“It doesn’t meet customer expectations,” he said.

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