Northeast Florida-based specialty coffee and cafe chain Southern Grounds has hired former Firehouse Subs Vice President of Franchise Development Greg Delks to develop and implement the U.S. franchising strategy as the brand sets its sights on national growth. 

Reporting to Chief Executive Officer Mark Janasik, Delks joins the emerging regional brand at a pivotal time of strategic growth as the brand takes the next step toward its expansive goal of opening up a dozen operations each year for the next decade, bringing the community-focused coffee brand to communities across the southern United States. Immediate franchising plans are underway to include Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Maryland, and Mississippi, as well as select markets in Florida including the west coast, panhandle and Orlando.

“After seven years of strategic development in our hometown markets of Northeast Florida, Southern Grounds is primed for an elite franchise development program and who better to lead that charge than industry veteran Greg Delks,” says Southern Grounds Chief Executive Officer Mark Janasik. “Together, I’m thrilled to see how we transform our regional brand into a household name,” he said.

Delks spent the last 17 years at the helm of the franchise development program at Firehouse Subs where he grew the Northeast Florida-founded sandwich chain from less than 400 restaurants into more than 1,200 restaurants and became one of North America’s No. 1 restaurant franchise brands, which sold for $1 billion in 2021 to Restaurant Brands International. Under his leadership, Delks expanded the Firehouse Subs brand into international markets and U.S. territories, including Canada and Puerto Rico, in addition to the development of nontraditional venues such as airports, college campuses and hospitals. 

“The strong unit economics in company-owned restaurants, a chef-driven menu and sustainable gourmet coffee offerings with a design enhanced restaurant layout will make Southern Grounds a great investment opportunity for experienced multi-unit hospitality professionals,” says Greg Delks, director of franchising at Southern Grounds. 

Southern Grounds currently operates three company-owned locations in Northeast Florida with two additional locations expected to enter the Jacksonville-area later this year. In February 2022, the brand opened its first airport location inside the Jacksonville International Airport, operated by airport food service specialist HMSHost and will continue nontraditional development under Delks’ leadership. 

Known for its community “Gather Together” call to action, Southern Grounds is a chef-driven coffee house offering an array of products to conscious consumers that reach beyond the cup. The brand collaborates with chefs and farmers from around the southeast to craft menu items that are sourced from local purveyors, whenever possible and serves all-day options, with a keen focus on healthful goodness and sustainable ingredients. 

Beverage, Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Food, Franchising, Growth, News, Southern Grounds