Subway Restaurants Co-Founder Peter Buck Dies At 90
(Bloomberg) -- Peter Buck, the nuclear physicist who co-founded Subway Restaurants, the world’s largest food chain by number of locations, has died. He was 90.
He died Nov. 18, according to a company statement. No cause was given.
Buck “was a shining example of a dedicated, hands-on leader, and an integral member of the Subway family,” chief executive officer John Chidsey said in a statement. “Dr. Buck’s devotion to Subway, and his vision for the brand, helped grow it from a singular sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to the world’s largest restaurant brand.”
Along with Fred DeLuca, Buck opened the closely held company’s first outlet in 1965 in Bridgeport and expanded to about 40,000 sites worldwide during the next five decades. DeLuca, a 17-year-old high-school graduate, went into the sandwich business with Buck, a family friend, after asking him for a $1,000 loan. The scientist came up with the restaurant idea to help the youngster pay his way through college.
DeLuca died in 2015 at age 67.
Subway, which emphasizes lower-calorie items in its marketing, became known as a healthier alternative to fast-food chains selling hamburgers or fried chicken. Sales were helped by an advertising campaign featuring Jared Fogle -- “Jared, the Subway Guy” -- who lost more than 200 pounds in less than a year with his own Subway diet and exercise. The Milford, Connecticut-based company also became the first quick-service restaurant chain to gain the American Heart Association’s Heart Check Certification for some of its meals in 2012, according to Subway’s website.
“They’ve got great marketing, they’re positioned well, they were ahead of the curve with the health positioning, they have a halo in the mind of the consumer, and they have a franchising model that’s been very aggressive,” David Henkes, now senior principal at Chicago-based research firm Technomic Inc., said in a 2010 article in QSR magazine, a trade publication.
Subway’s image was damaged in 2015 when the company cut its ties to Fogle after he pleaded guilty to sex acts with minors and child pornography charges. He was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. Facing increased competition, Subway closed more U.S. restaurants than it opened in 2016, the first time the chain had a net reduction. The downward trend in sales has continued as customers defected to more modern eateries like Jimmy John’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.
Born on Dec. 19, 1930, in South Portland, Maine, Buck received a bachelor’s degree at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1952 before graduating with a master’s in science and a doctorate in physics, both at Columbia University in New York. He also held a job designing nuclear reactors for the U.S. Navy and worked for General Electric Co. in Connecticut, where he began the Subway business.
He pitched the idea of Subway stores to DeLuca after recalling the Italian sandwich shop, called Amato’s, which he and his father visited when Buck was a child, according to a 2009 interview in the Washington Post. DeLuca and Buck drove to Maine to examine Amato’s sandwiches before opening their first store weeks later.
As a philanthropist, Buck donated $30 million to Danbury Hospital and created the New York-based Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation in 1999. The organization awards grants primarily to groups with a focus on community services, land conservation and education.
Buck and his partner turned their brand, initially called Pete’s Super Submarines, into a franchise in 1974 and took the business nationwide.
Survivors include his sons Christopher and William.
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