A federal judge has approved a settlement designed to make sure that Subway’s Footlong sandwiches are actually a foot long. 

The sandwich giant agreed in October to certain practice changes to ensure that customers don’t get shortchanged an inch on their 12-inch sandwiches. The settlement was finalized and approved last week.

According to the agreement, Subway will pay attorneys for the plaintiffs $525,000 for legal costs. It will also pay $500 apiece for each of the 10 people who led the class action. No claims were awarded to any other members of the class action.

The settlement, which has been in the works for two years, will require Subway franchisees to use a tool to measure bread in its restaurants and ensure that sandwiches are either six or 12 inches. The franchisor will also include sandwich length as part of its inspections and would institute penalties for violations.

The settlement is an outgrowth of a 2013 social media uproar, after a teenager in Australia posted a picture to Facebook claiming that his Footlong sandwich was only 11 inches.

The post went viral and generated media attention. Attorneys began investigating and filing lawsuits in various courts. The two sides decided to mediate, and while that session did not resolve the case, “the plaintiffs realized that their claims were quite weak” once that session was over, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote in her order. Plaintiffs then focused on efforts to ensure that Subway adopted measures to ensure its sandwiches are the proper length.

Adelman wrote that the chain’s own testing found that the “vast majority of bread sold in Subway restaurants was at least 12 inches long,” and that most of the shortchanged bread was less than a quarter of an inch shorter. In addition, raw dough sticks used to bake the bread weighed the same.

Raw dough sticks arrive at Subway restaurants frozen, and are then thawed, stretched, allowed to rise and baked, she wrote. “Natural variability” in that process leads to some of the loaves being slightly shorter and wider. 

“But, because all loaves are baked from the same quantity of dough, each loaf contains the same quantity of ingredients,” Adelman wrote. “Thus, a customer who received a baked loaf that was shorter than 12 inches did not receive any less bread than he or she would have if the loaf measured exactly 12 inches.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com
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