Selling Subs, Saving Lives: Firehouse Subs unites specialty subs and community service

Situated in one of the fastest-growing segments in the fast-casual and quick-service industry—the sandwich category—Firehouse Subs is also one of the fastest-growing restaurant brands in the country. Now with 864 total locations, the company has another 175 in development and is on track to reach more than 2,000 locations by 2020.

The concept’s strong brand identity brings together community service and specialty subs uniquely prepared with quality ingredients. “Firehouse Subs is a daily affirmation that serving good food and doing good belong together,” says Greg Delks, vice president of franchise development at Firehouse Subs. “We’re selling subs and saving lives.” The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has raised more than $12 million since 2005 to help improve local emergency services. “It’s been said that the Foundation is the heart of Firehouse Subs, and we like to view it that way,” Delks says. Each Firehouse Subs location also features a mural depicting the local fire department, and the company asks area public safety departments to donate memorabilia or old equipment to use as part of the décor, adding to the local touch.

Franchisee candidates often reach out to the company after visiting a Firehouse Subs location and becoming enthused with the concept and its values. “More often that not, franchisees come to us because they can see themselves behind the counter,” Delks says. “The in-store experience is very strong.” Restaurant experience is preferred, but not necessary. Potential franchisees should be outgoing, and should have well-developed business acumen, self-motivation, and community-mindedness. “And they should be fanatical about customer service,” adds Delks.

The operational aspects of a Firehouse Subs location are fairly simple. The unique steaming process for meats and cheeses also means that employees don’t need complex training. “There is no real back-of-house,” Delks says. “We have very streamlined operations.”

Development opportunities are available this year in the northeastern U.S., particularly the Tristate area, as well as Boston and Philadelphia. Firehouse Subs is also looking to expand in southern California and the Chicago area.

Forty-five area representatives (ARS) manage development across the U.S., reviewing new applications and supervising growth. “This is one of the most important relationships franchise owners have,” says Delks. ARs are franchisees themselves, with years of multi-unit operations experience. They are responsible for training and mentoring new franchisees in their designated market area, and franchisees work with them to pick their new store location. ARs visit each store in their area on a monthly basis, and are available constantly via telephone.

“The success of any new Firehouse Subs location depends on two things: the site itself, and who’s running it,” Delks says. “Our challenge is to find the franchisees who can carry on the Firehouse Subs culture and performance.”

For more information about franchising opportunities with Firehouse Subs, visit