Sponsored by Firehouse Subs.
In April 2004, Larry Chandler took over a struggling Firehouse Subs store in Florence, South Carolina. The location was losing money, due in part to the original franchisees having other full-time jobs—they could not be in the building every day, running the business. Chandler and his team turned the store’s reputation around by going door-to-door to every home within a mile radius.
Fifteen years later, not only is that store a success, but Chandler owns 32 Firehouse Subs locations across the southeastern U.S., with three more currently under construction. He’s one of the many franchisees enjoying being a part of the explosive growth of Firehouse Subs, which has seen the brand go from about 500 units to more than 1,100 in the past eight years.
The growth is a testament to a franchising model that Chandler says is built for success—since the day he took over the store in Florence, he’s been supported by the corporate offices and has no trouble getting company executives on the phone when he an issue arises. He’s benefited from the way the brand has evolved along with modern technologies, like for example, when it built platforms for digital ordering that all franchisees could use to connect with their customer base.
“They’re in business with us,” Chandler says of the Firehouse Subs C-suite. “Like any partnership, every single day isn’t a bed of roses, but we have great leadership that are available every day, helping grow the business with us. They will do everything in their power to make you successful, and they expect the same from you in return.”
Prior to signing on as a franchisee with Firehouse Subs, Chandler did what he recommends anyone thinking about partnering with any brand should do: He thoroughly researched the brand. A financial disclosure document details all of the numbers, but speaking with other brand franchisees can help inform what the experience might look like on the ground. It can also help illuminate what the brand stands for. Firehouse Subs, for example, is widely known for supporting first responders, something that Chandler connected with.
“A brand you want to franchise with should align with your core values, whatever those might be,” Chandler says. “For me, I had to see that the brand cares about people, has good products, and was showing growth. There are a lot of great franchises out there, but I’ve heard some horror stories, too, so it’s important to do your own research.”
Once research is done and a brand partnership is established, a franchisee training program will help acclimate the new restaurant owner to the actual day-to-day operations within a store. At Firehouse Subs, this is, at minimum, a six-week training course at an existing store, with an additional week spent at the company’s corporate offices in Jacksonville, Florida. The intensive process is another example of the dedication the brand shows to its franchisees, but it’s also an introduction to the world of restaurant operations.
“You have to be passionate about the people and the brand that you partner with, but you’ve also got to be hands-on and involved in the business every day,” Chandler says. “It can be a challenging business, but those things will make you successful.”
For more information about how to become a franchisee with Firehouse Subs, visit its website.
By Charlie Pogacar