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Although it may have appeared to pop up overnight, the big and bright new Subway restaurant location has actually been about two years in the making.
The curtains of sort were removed last week when plywood came off the exterior of the construction site on Grand Lake Road and a large crane moved an eye-catching new sign into place.
Opening day is now set for Wednesday for what promises to be the most modern of the 10 Subway franchises in Cape Breton.
“Our signs are usually the last thing to go on,” said Subway Cape Breton franchisee Emily Pelley.
“There were a lot of delays because of COVID — some steel that we needed, our windows, lots of unexpected delays that took a little bit longer than usual but we are happy to finally see it coming to an end.”
The Grand Lake Road location will replace the Subway spot in the Welton Street strip mall.
The Cape Breton Subway owners acquired the building that had previously been the site of multiple other business ventures about two years ago and have been working to ready it as their flagship restaurant for more than a year.
Key indoor features will be stools dotting large floor-to-ceiling windows, and modern decor and lighting. There will also be plenty of charging ports and in-house Wi-Fi for those who may want to do some business while enjoying a meal.
But what is expected to get most of the attention once the Grand Lake Road location opens is an ultramodern drive-thru kiosk that is brand new to the Subway chain.
Pelly said it will be the only Subway in Cape Breton with a drive-thru and there is no other drive-thru quite like it on the island.
“It’s going to be similar to how our app works where they are going to be able to pick and choose at the touch of their fingertips exactly what they want on their sandwiches.”
Speed is a big factor in this drive-thru tech, she said, because it allows staff to start an order in real-time as selections are punched in.
“That’s probably my most exciting feature of the store and I understand it is going to be a learning curve for us and our guests because it is going to be the first functioning drive-thru we’ve used in a long time.”
Pelley conducted plenty of local research on drive-thru windows before one was installed at Subway. She found that they were high traffic areas at all times of the day and night.
“People love their drive-thrus and with COVID going on it is just another layer of convenience added for our guests.”
The drive-thru will also feature an anti-bacterial protected screen for added safety and strict staff sanitization practices will be put in place.
A smooth-running drive-thru window will be especially important in these COVID-19 impacted times where customers have opted for a contactless experience in many cases.
Over the past 10 months, Pelley has also noticed an uptick in online ordering and a greater emphasis on third party deliveries.
The entire Grand Lake Road building is about 4,000 square feet and approximately 2,500 square feet will be set aside for the restaurant.
Management offices will be moved to Grand Lake Road and a training area will be available on site. The building will also have storage space for the other nine locations that had been lacking adequate storage in the past.
“This is going to be our flagship store in Cape Breton,” Pelley said.
“Everybody in the Subway world is incredibly excited and, from what I’m seeing on Facebook and Instagram, and our guests' response, there is more (excitement) than I ever thought there would be from our guests. That brings ... confirmation that we have made the right decision.”
Comments on the impressiveness of the building's transformation were common among the posts on Subway's social media accounts.
“I drove by yesterday and couldn’t believe how fresh and new the building looks,” one social media commenter noted.
The newly constructed location has meant the hiring of five to 10 more employees for a total of about 80 in all for the 10 Cape Breton Subway locations. Five of those employees were also promoted to supervisory positions.
Pelley’s parents are also Subway franchisees with six locations on the west coast of Newfoundland.
Greg McNeil is a business reporter at the Cape Breton Post.