Jennifer and Jordan Olsen fell for one another while working at Subway. When you consider there are more than 23,000 locations nationwide, there are probably no shortage of stories like theirs. But how many had the chance to buy the same restaurant 22 years later?
Now married, with three daughters, the Olsens oversee the nostalgic venue as franchisees. Before, Jordan worked in marketing retail, while Jen stayed home with the kids. As their children got older, however, Jen started looking. And, fittingly, the Subway where they first met as teenagers was up for sale.
Today, Jen manages the day-to-day of the business. Jordan helps as well, in addition to operating a nearby music school.
Take us to the moment the restaurant came up for sale. How did buying the franchise go from a crazy idea to a reality?
Jordan: When we heard that the restaurant was for sale, I instantly thought back to being a teenager, working there, and all of the memories we had in the restaurant. We knew it would be a lot of work, but once we looked into it, we realized that being a franchise owner is a learning process, and we had plenty of support along the way to make it a reality.
Other than working at Subway, did you have any experience running a restaurant?
Jordan: We did not—but we have learned so much from doing so. We did have experience in related fields—I in marketing retail and we also run a music school, so we did have that experience coming into it.
What were some things that surprised you about being a franchise owner? How had this specific location changed?
Jen: While this restaurant has remained a constant, the area has changed a lot since it was first opened 30 years ago. At that time, there was a single traffic light and the Subway restaurant was one of the first big structures (and big brands) to come into Kaysville. Now, the area is prime real estate and a lot of businesses are located here.
Jordan: Since becoming franchise owners, we’ve noticed that our customers really appreciate the care and attention we put into everything. For example, one of the biggest things we stress at the restaurant is keeping things clean and spotless. The previous owners had a stellar reputation and upholding that has been very important to us, and we get a lot of customers commenting on the cleanliness, which is nice.
What was the biggest challenge?
Jordan: Being so engrained in the community, and having your name behind the restaurant, you really feel a sense of responsibility and come to work knowing that your reputation is behind everything—which is challenging but also really motivating.
What are some of your best memories from working at Subway 22 years ago? Obviously, meeting your future spouse has to be up there.
Jen: Definitely. Meeting each other was certainly the highlight and that history just makes owning the restaurant today that much more special.
Jordan: Beyond that, working at the Subway as teenagers allowed us to develop important transferrable skills in a fun environment. The work ethic and customer-centricity we learned have carried us throughout our careers and stay with us today.
Talk a little bit about your story. How did you go from working the line together as teenagers at Subway to marriage?
Jordan: I had already been working at the restaurant when Jen started. As cheesy as it sounds, I saw her on her first day and immediately fell in love.
Jen: He eventually grew on me and after a few months, got up the courage to ask me on a date. We ended up dating for two years but then broke up—Jordan left Subway to go into the Army Reserves, and I moved back home to Idaho and started eventually dating someone else.
Jordan: I was crushed when I learned she was dating someone else; but we eventually got back together and got married in 2002, 4 years after we first met at Subway. We lived in Colorado for a few years, and I spend time in marketing retail and Jen became a dental hygienist.
Jen: When the kids came, I took time off to be with them. As they got older (they are now 9, 11 and 13), I decided it was the right time to restart my career. That’s when we found out that the Subway we met in was up for sale.
What do people think of the fact you run the same store today you met at all those years ago?
Jordan: The reaction has been so positive and it’s always a good conversation starter and a great opportunity to connect with the community. Our kids’ friends event think it’s “so cool” that we own a Subway restaurant.
Jen: There have been a couple of times that people have come into the restaurant and actually recognized me from my days as a Sandwich Artist so many years ago; it’s crazy!
For the brand in general, where do you think some of the greatest opportunities to reach today’s guests are? And how have some of Subway’s changes lately, from menu to other initiatives, helped the brand evolve?
Jen: There’s an amazing opportunity being that Subway is such a big, global brand, but the restaurants like ours really have a mom-n-pop feel, which makes them feel like a real part of the community.
Jordan: In terms of some of the recent changes, we’ve been getting been a lot of business from online ordering and delivery. I have a background in marketing that has really come in handy and I handle all of the marketing for the restaurant. I’ve enjoyed getting to come up with creative ways to get customers to our location.
What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to break into franchising for the first time?
Jen: You have to just do it and jump right in. It can seem scary—it can seem like a big investment, but for us at least, we were able to get access to one of the biggest brands in the world at a reasonable cost. Ultimately, you need to care about the brand and have a real connection to it. We’ve always loved Subway’s food, so it was a really natural fit for us. At the end of the day, you have to love what you do.