/ / The Life of a Corporate Dietitian at Subway

The Life of a Corporate Dietitian at Subway

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We’ve come to it at last, folks. After three years of school, dietetic internship, stress, fun times, and a LOT of food, here we are. Last Thursday, I walked out of Subway‘s world headquarters having finished my dietetics internship and thus all the requirements to become a registered dietitian … save one: I still need to pass the dietetics registration exam later this summer to write “RD” after my name. I’d better get studying!

… Oh, you want to hear about my experiences as a dietetic intern at Subway during my final dietetic rotation? Well, if you wish

As I hinted in my last post, my internship experiences at Subway have been unlike any I have had thus far. Before I go any further, I just want to say two things: First, pictures and information about Subway will be limited, as anyone who works at the headquarters must sign a statement declaring he or she will not reveal confidential information about the company. As Subway is the largest franchise operation in the world, I’m can see how confidential information could spread quickly without such a statement. Second, I’ve been a huge fan of Subway since I was a little girl ordering the 6″ Italian B.M.T. sandwich at my hometown location, so being able to see how the company runs has been a real treat. As you can guess, I am not an objective observer in this post; rather, I am a nerdy fan. Nevertheless, I will try to present my experiences as objectively as possible 🙂

Even after years of eating Subway sandwiches (including in China and Bonaire!), I had no idea that the world headquarters was located right here in Milford, Connecticut until I began my dietetics program at the University of Connecticut. After I discovered that Subway‘s corporate dietitian, Lanette Kovachi, is a graduate of my dietetics program, I knew I wanted to work with her. Luckily, the Coordinated Dietetics program at UConn allows us to arrange our own two-week internship. Lanette was kind enough to let me tag around with her. Thanks, Lanette!

Let’s go inside, shall we?

The lobby is enormous and colorful – check out these flags! Each flag represents a country where Subway has restaurants:

These clocks are set to local times at the regional offices around the world:

Check it:

Yep, I’m posing in the lobby of Subway headquarters like a geeky fan.

As soon as you walk into Subway’s headquarters, you can smell fresh-baked bread. Why? Stay tuned!

Lanette met me as soon as I walked in and instantly helped me feel comfortable.  After a name tag and a confidentiality statement, I was off to discover corporate life at Subway!

Last name carefully covered with a lovely picture.

Lanette works in the Research & Development department of Subway, where her job responsibilities are as varied as the field of dietetics. She is constantly up and about, performing duties such as answering nutrition questions from her co-workers and Subway customers, measuring portions of vegetables in Subway meals, updating nutrition and allergy information, keeping up with the latest food trends (internationally, too!), filming videos for both internal and external use, attending meetings about the latest news at Subway, taste-testing potential new products, meeting with outside people, giving quotes to the media, keeping current on the latest in food labeling laws and regulations, etc., etc. As Subway is an international company, labeling laws and nutrition regulations must be current for all 99 countries in which they have restaurants. This job is huge!

Poster in the cafeteria with the latest restaurant totals.

I have long admired Subway’s commitment to offering nutritious choices in their stores. Because their stores are so widespread, Subway can provide many people with a healthy, low-cost meal or “quick bite” on the run. How many fast-service restaurants can you say that about? Despite continuing economic troubles, Americans continue to eat out often. In our profit-driven world, Subway stands out in restaurant nutrition and sustainability. In addition, Subway is testing out diabetes-friendly menus and gluten-free products at a few store locations.

Now, back to my internship experience! On my first day, I began learning about the subtleties of menu labeling and nutrition panels.

Who knew nutrition labeling was so complicated? Different countries require different nutrients on their labels, so that Lanette must create many nutrient databases. Add that complication to the fact that countries offer a variety of products (for example, paneer tikka and chicken tandoori in India), that some areas do not eat certain meats, and that nutrient rounding rules vary, and you’ve got an entirely unique dietetics experience.

What else did I do while at Subway? I co-wrote an article for Subway’s website (I’ll let you know when it’s up). I observed Lanette talking with a reporter about the addition of avocado to their sandwich toppings. I posed with bread during a press release photo shoot. I attended meetings (I love going to meetings where we talk about sandwiches!). I gave my cubicle a temporary name plate:

I also worked on diabetic exchanges for the website, as well as tip sheets for people with diabetes or heart disease looking for ideas on how to eat healthy when at a restaurant.

During my internship, I had the opportunity to watch one of Lanette’s filming sessions (I can’t say what the video is for – sorry!). After years of media work, Lanette is a natural in front of the camera:

Blurry phone pic.

Seeing the light kit and green screen all set up, I figured I could get a good picture with Lanette. Of course, I didn’t have my actual camera with me at the time – what was I thinking? The videographer, Bruce, was kind enough to take a series of fuzzy portraits with my phone. So, yeah … none of those pictures turned out. Once I get a copy of the press release photo we shot, I’ll post it here. (Edited to add: Here it is!)


[Photo credit: Jeff Glagowski]

From left to right: Me; Mark Christiano, Baking Specialist and Subway’s “Bread Guy”; Lanette.

What was my favorite part of interning at Subway? I ate Subway sandwiches for lunch every day! ( … I’m just kidding about the “favorite part” … or am I?)

Picture of cafeteria taken while empty so as not to disturb hungry Subway employees.
The sandwich and salad bar.

Subway headquarters offers breakfast and lunch to their employees every day, so I was able to partake of lunch while I was there.  A few of my creations:

Flatbread sandwich with avocado, a new Subway offering.
I swear there’s a sandwich under all that spinach!
Last sandwich, I promise! See the avocado on the left?

Most of the time Lanette and I ate in the test kitchen. I couldn’t take any pictures inside the test kitchen due to confidentiality issues. While hanging out in the kitchen, executive chef Chris let me taste some samples of new products – fun!

Speaking of the test kitchen … on my penultimate day, I was able to participate in an test kitchen taste test!  I can’t tell you what I tasted and why; but, I can tell you: Subway is looking out for your taste buds! I’ve learned in classes about how taste tests are carefully designed to avoid testing bias, but this internship is the first time I’ve actually seen these tests in action.  In practice … I’ve never examined a food item so closely in my life.

Thanks for a fabulous internship experience, Lanette!

***

This post completes my series of what life is like as a dietetic student and intern – check out this page for links to my prior dietetic posts about clinical dietetics, food service, community, counseling, etc. As I’ve said many times before: the field of dietetics is tremendously varied.

Off to study for my RD exam! 🙂

Q: Have you ever eaten at Subway? How often do you eat out?

27 Comments

  1. What a great opportunity Jessie! I love that Subway has presence all over the world, even in India! When I’m abroad I am always kind of comforted to see a bit of home when I run into a Subway store.

    I used to eat the same chicken 6″ on wheat every single day during the 2+ years I worked at Paramount Pictures. I totally overdosed on it and haven’t been back since. But the smell of the bread wafting out the door almost draws me in. Almost! But then I recall how gluten makes me feel and I make a break in the other direction. 🙂

    1. Lol Ameena 😛 If Subway’s new gluten-free bread makes it out to LA, I’ll be sure to let you know!

  2. Oh Subway!! My first experience with it was here in London (no Subways in Greece yet). No I haven’t tried it yet, but last year on my way home I used to walk past a street where many food shops were right next to each other. The Subway on this street was next to a Japanese fast food restaurant, so I thought that the beautiful smell I could sense while walking past the area came from the Japanese place. It took me almost a year to realise it was the Subway bread instead!! 😀 But I have yet to try it…

    I eat out about once a week, usually a dinner with my boyfriend and/or friends in the weekend. I try to bring lunch from home when I work so I don’t have to buy sandwiches (hence why I haven’t tasted Subway yet!! :D)

    Jessie CONGRATS on finishing you training to become a R.D. !! I can’t WAIT to see you introduce yourself as Jessie :):):), R.D.

  3. HOW FUN!! Her job sounds a lot like mine, in many ways. I help so many of my team members with their diets and they are always asking me diet-related questions. I also know the importance of watching what you type online, when you work in the corporate world. It’s so hard for me to blog sometimes because I have to be SO CAREFUL. I am happy to hear you enjoyed your time, but of course, how could you not?! It sounds like there was plenty for you to do!!
    And now you’re one step closer to becoming an RD. Congrats!

  4. Congrats on finishing your dietetic internship!!! Sounds like you really enjoyed your time at Subway! I loved reading about all your internships.

  5. Congratulations Jessie! It sounds like your very last placement was super fun! Subway is the only fast food place that I really like. When I went to Las Vegas earlier this year I ate there at least once a day – it’s great having something fast, convenient, inexpensive, and pretty healthy. I haven’t seen a Subway in Korea yet…but compared to North America good, wholesome food is much cheaper and easier to find here.

    Good luck on your exam! I’m sure you will ace it 😉

  6. Wow that sounds like a huge job and it’s cool you got to get a sneak peak! Good luck on your exam!

  7. What a neat opportunity! I didn’t get to do anything half as cool during my internship.
    I just love how broad the field of dietetics is!

  8. Congratulations baby!!!!!!!! I know you will ace your dietetics
    exam and maybe head up a new division of Subway 😉
    Sounds like the perfect ending for your internship…I don’t really eat out much, but I have enjoyed a veggie at Subway a time or two 🙂
    Congrats again, so happy for you 🙂

  9. Oh Jessie. I’m so so happy for you. You’ve FINALLY made it!! (Well, save for that last exam.) All of your hard work has paid off, or will continue to pay off, and most importantly… you *know* that this IS what YOU want. Congratulations on your perseverance and for sticking it out to follow your dreams. 🙂

  10. Hey Jessie,

    Big huge CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! Also before I forget, just want to wish the best of luck on the dietetics registration exam. I know if I don’t do it now it’s going to come and go and I’d miss my chance.

    I actually never tried a Subway sub until into my high school years. All it took was one bite and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m fan of their Spicy Italian (just for the record, not because it sounds like I’m ordering a hot guy…teehee) and recently I’ve switched to tuna. And OMG, did you say addition of avocado to their toppings? YES YES YES please, Subway!!!!!!

    That’s so cool that you guys got to make your own subs or whatever for lunch on them. i don’t know if i’d be tempted to try and stuff EVERYTHING into my sub. Haha. You know what I’ve always wanted to do? Order a sub and ask for everything with extra everything on it. teehee.

    So glad to hear that you had such great internship placements and experiences, Jessie. Now down to the last final exam and you’re comletely done. WOOT!

    We have a Subway that’s about a 5 minute drive from our house. In the summer if it’s nice weather we’ll walk the 20 minutes there, eat, and then burn off some calories walking back. Subway is my lazy go to quick lunch or dinner. I much prefer them over many many of the other fast food joints out there. Hope to see avocado soon. Once again, best of luck with your dietetics rigistration exam. ROCK it, girl!!!!!! stalk ya soon. hugs and take care, sweetie.

  11. A HUGE congrats to you, Jessie!!! It must be an amazing feeling to be all the requirements to become an RD…now comes the exciting part (well, after the test anyway, lol!).

    Sounds like you had a pretty amazing internship at Subway! I agree with you, Subway is one of my fav fast food places because of all their healthy choices…it doesn’t really feel I’m eating fast food when I eat there! 🙂

  12. Congrats on all your hard work paying off. What an interesting post and unique look you gave us. All the best in your career going forward.

  13. Jessie this is TOO COOL!!! haha Subway is a great place to intern at im thinking, great environment to learn a lot and even teach a lot too! Congratulations- all your hard work is paying off and HAS payed off <3 LOVE UUUUU!

  14. Only a special foodie as yourself can actually get me excited about walking into a Subway store…it’s time I gave it a chance ;o) I too wouldn’t mind a Gluten-free option.

    Jessie…you’re almost there…and yes one more exam to study for…but don’t forget to re-energize that enthusiasm of yours from some great Summer times. The rest will fall into place.

    All the very best,
    Claudia

  15. Congratulations!! I know you still have the test to study for, but it must feel so good to be done with all your requirements!

    Your internship at Subway sounds really neat! I would love to get a behind-the-scenes view like you did….and of course unlimited Subway sandwiches 🙂 I’m glad you had such a good experience there, and got to help out with a variety of different tasks. And hopefully this has helped give you more clarity about the direction you want to go in next.

    I’m so excited for you!! Good luck with the exam and enjoy your summer! Can’t wait to see what’s next for you!

  16. Woot woot! GO JESSIE! My little RD-to-be-cutie-pie!

    I ate subway ALL THE TIME in high school. I haven’t eaten it as much since college, but perhaps I WOULD if there were paneer options. I think you should drop that hint to the powers-that-be. 😛

  17. Hey Jessie! CONGRATS on wrapping up your training *YAAAAAAAY FOR JESSIE!!!!* And good luck for your registration exam, though I really don’t think you need it 🙂

    What a fantastic learning experience for you! Sounds like Subway takes really good care of its employees. I have eaten at Subway a few times and I like that it’s much healthier and figure friendlier than a lot of other food chains. Once when my biggest boy was much younger, we had lunch together at Subway and I ordered one for him that was loaded with ham and veggies. It was his first taste of Subway and he quietly ate his. I thought he was enjoying it as much as I was mine. Later when we were walking around the same mall, I asked him what he thought of his lunch. He stared ahead for a while then said to me in his little boy voice – “Can we NEVER eat at Subway again please mummy. I don’t like their hotdogs” LOL Aren’t kids adorable?

    1. Haha, aww, what a cutie 🙂 I don’t blame him for being disappointed in Subway’s “hotdogs” 😉

      Thanks for the congrats, Denise, and for the good luck! Fingers crossed!

  18. Hello,
    My name is Jennifer. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics but I am unsure if I am suited to the job or not. I am more interested in the effects of food on people. I would find it difficult to work in a hospital due to the food that they provide to their patients. Cornflakes And Coco Pops for breakfast and lots of packaged foods which contains extreme amounts of salt, sugar and chemicals. I also do not agree with the amount of carbohydrates that people eat. Recent studies conducted have proven that carbohydrates cause extreme highs and lows in our bodies sugar level which in time does leads to diabetes, and also have little or no nutritional value. I also could not work for a company knowing that the contents of packaged foods contain too much salt sugar fat and most importantly msg’s, coloring’s, flavoring’s, aspartame and lets not forget all the carcinogens ( which have been added to a SAVE LEVEL). Some studies have even proven that over a period of time the food has caused cancer in Rats but because it has not been proven to cause cancer in Humans, it is sold to people in shops. Most of the food we eat nowadays is destroying our systems leading to more and more cancer ( Artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, are carcinogenic. If you ever take a look at the back of weight watchers food especially their yogurts, you will be surprised to see that it contains not only ASPARTAME BUT ALSO COLORING’S AND FLAVORINGS. I will not mention any names. Once I was in a lecture where the head man of this hospital came in and started telling us the food that is provided to the patients. We do not make our food from scratch any more because the patients prefer packaged foods. We have cornflakes and dolomio sauces and packaged soups. How on earth can any dietetician support such arrogance. This man has no interest in the welfare of his patients getting better. Heart disease, diabetes, people coming out of surgery do not need additional toxins, salt or sugar or rubbish may i add, added to the diets. They need food that is enriched with vitamins nutrients and protein, locally produced. Not food that will send their sugar levels sky high and too much salt which will causes water retention. I am only a first year student. I have not finished my dietetic’s course and I am most definitely very confused. I would love if there was any way I could finish my dietetics course and then FIGHT against these companies and make changes, not SUPPORT them. I am very passionate person. I want to help people and I want to see a change in the way food is provided to both patients and to customers. What should I do?

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for your comment 🙂 It’s definitely normal to be confused when you first start out in something new. I definitely had my moments during the first year of my program. Luckily, being in dietetics doesn’t mean you have to agree with what every single person or organization involved with health care does. Most RDs work in a clinical setting, but that doesn’t mean YOU have to. I know a lot of RDs who work in the community, or have their own practices, or even work in public policy, which involves change on a very large scale. Once of the great things about being a dietitian is being able to carve your own path through the field of nutrition. If you feel strongly about a certain area, you can make space for yourself there. At this stage of your academic career, the best thing you can do for yourself is to find someone in the field you trust, whether an educator or another RD, and talk with them about your concerns and about your goals. She or he can offer a reassuring word and perhaps help you decide if the field is right for you.

      Best of luck! Let me know if you have any more questions.

      Jessie

  19. Hi Jessie! I happened to find your site while Googling and read about how you got into dietetics! Very interesting and very good advice! Dietetics is also a second career for me; I was previously a medical secretary with an AS in Applied Arts. I just graduated with a BS in Food and Nutrition with a minor in English this past May – as a single woman in my early 30’s! Unfortunately, I did not get matched for an internship I think because I only applied to 2 VERY competitive programs in a large city in the Northeast. I’m not giving up though because I really want to be a registered dietitian – I truly want to be in this field! Right now I work at a local hospital taking patients’ orders and correcting diet orders – almost like a diet tech. I’m also taking the exam to be a DTR to get my foot in the door.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your article about Subway and glad that the company continues to develop delicious and nutritious sandwiches! You looked like you had a lot of fun too! I’ll keep reading your posts!

    1. Congratulations on your recent graduation, Monique! Good for you for not giving up – I can see you have drive and determination, and I’m sure an internship is in your future 🙂 Thanks for your kind words, and let me know how things are going!

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