Freshii, a Canadian fast-casual salad and wrap concept founded in 2005, is making headlines again because its CEO likes to give unsolicited advice to other CEOs and business leaders. This week Freshii founder and CEO Matthew Corrin wrote an open letter to Subway, the privately-owned sandwich chain, suggesting the companies form a partnership whereby “select Subway stores” are converted “to Freshii restaurants in a quick, low-cost way.”
The goal behind Corrin’s proposal is ostensibly to allow the two chains to “continue to change the way the world eats, together.” But the suggestion that Subway should give up some of its real estate (and sales) in exchange for some greater good feels, well, laughable. Corrin defended his proposal, saying he has “received dozens and dozens of inquiries from Subway franchisees” in an interview with the CBC. "The spirit of this open letter is saying, ‘Look, this is already happening,’” Corrin said, “and it’s going to probably accelerate, we believe.’”
Subway has not yet responded to the letter, at least publicly.
This isn’t the first time Freshii put out a press release disguised as an open letter. In 2015 Corrin wrote a letter to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook. In it he called Easterbrook out for poor planning, and didn’t mince words about McDonald’s faltering business: “The reality is that McDonald's is stagnating and your growth days are over.” As if to soften the blow, he suggested McDonald’s allow Freshii “to co-brand [an] outlet in just one of your 14,000 stores, anywhere in America.” He went on to promise a money-back guarantee that the move would “[increase] same store sales by 30 percent and [boost] annual profits by $250,000 per unit.” McDonald’s didn’t take Freshii up on that offer, but the move earned Corrin a reputation as either thirsty and delusional — or a mastermind at self-publicity.
Last year, Corrin wrote to non-Freshii franchisees who may have signed on to run a franchise for a flash-in-the-pan trend like Froyo or cupcakes. “I challenge you to make your restaurant relevant again,” Corrin wrote, urging any disillusioned franchisees to cut their losses and join Freshii, “My offer is real, and it’s win-win. The time to act is now — before your froyo or juice business goes out of business.”
(Chain-written open letters seem to be a thing of late. Also in 2015, Burger King wrote a letter to McDonald’s with a potentially earth-shattering idea: The McWhopper. McDonald’s, showing its usual lack of imagination and sense of humor, declined.)
Corrin’s most recent letter is different from the one he wrote to McDonald’s in that it’s addressed to the sandwich chain as a whole, not to a member of its leadership team. The note invokes the words and sentiment of Fred DeLuca, Subway’s late founder and CEO, but makes no mention of Subway’s current president, Suzanne Greco.