Sandwich restaurant Subway has said it will increase the number of its outlets on the island of Ireland by 51 by 2020, bring its total here to 321.

The company's expansion plans will see the creation of 408 new jobs.

In total, Subway said it aims to increase the number of stores in Ireland and the UK to 3,000 by 2020, creating around 5,000 new jobs. 

It currently has 2,500 outlets in Ireland and the UK, all owned and operated by a network of small business owners.
 
The company is seeking to capitalise on a growing appetite for cheap food on the go and said its  expansion plans are in response to consumer demand. 

Peter Dowding, Country Director for UK and Ireland said that the company's growth is a testament to the hard work and effort of its franchisees. 

"We are confident our business model will continue to grow as more and more consumers demand great tasting food at a value price-point," Mr Dowding said. 

"With 5,000 new jobs expected over the next three years, opening up a further 500 stores demonstrates not only the value of the business to our franchisees but also collectively, the real and significant contribution to Irish and British economies," he added.

Subway shut 359 restaurants in the US last year amid stiff competition in a highly fragmented fast-food industry. 

Globally Subway has more than 44,000 outlets in 112 countries from Afghanistan to Zambia.