Port of Subs, a 50-year-old West Coast sandwich chain, was acquired by private equity firm Area 15 Ventures.
The Reno, Nevada-based chain has more than 130 locations in seven states. The company was founded in 1972 by two brothers from New Jersey who originally called it Sub Shop. Three years later, John Larsen and his family purchased the company and held a contest to select another name. After more than 10,000-plus submissions, Port of Subs was the winner. The brand developed 10 corporate stores in the next 10 years and began franchisign in 1985.
As part of the transaction, Larsen will step down as CEO.
“This is definitely an exciting time for Port of Subs, and I couldn’t feel more secure putting the brand in the hands of an esteemed group like Area 15 Ventures,” Larsen said in a statement. “Over the years, our franchisees have become truly celebrated in each community we serve because of our high-quality and customizable menu, and with that, we’ve been able to capture an amazing following."
Area 15 Ventures will lead a brand with a renewed franchising strategy. Port of Subs plans to expand using a regional developer model. So far, more than 40 markets have been identified, which will be filled with individual and multi-unit franchisees. The legacy chain expects to award up to 50 regions for development within the next year.
Leading the investment is Dave Liniger, cofounder and chairman of global franchise RE/MAX. The entrepreneur uses Area 15 Ventures to grow various franchise concepts, most notably Daddy's Chicken Shack, a fast casual that currently has 12 regional developers and 150 restaurants in development.
“Port of Subs is a welcomed addition to the Area 15 Ventures portfolio, and there is no doubt that this is a concept equipped for broadscale growth,” Liniger said in a statement. “When seeking out new concepts to add to our roster, we do our due diligence in confirming the brand has the potential to grow on a global scale, thrive in today’s competitive [quick-service] market and above all, has the highest quality product that aligns directly with what consumers are looking for. That’s exactly what we’ve found with Port of Subs. The brand’s legacy, values and rock-solid business model provide a wealth of potential, and we’re thrilled to have found an established brand with so much growth on the horizon.”
Adam Contos, who worked at RE/MAX for more than 18 years and served as CEO from February 2018 to April 2022, will become Port of Sub's new CEO. He's worked with Area 15 ventures since early 2022 and is a board director with the International Franchise Association. Healey Mendicino, the brand's former executive vice president, was promoted to brand president.