Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | July 2015 | By Robert Thomas

Start to Finish: Ashley Morris

For the Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop CEO, being a franchisee wasn't enough to fulfill his love for the brand.
QSR sandwich chain executive talks inspiration to buy company.
Ashley Morris, CEO, Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop

I remember falling in love with Capriotti’s in college. My roommate, lifetime friend, and now current business partner came home one day praising Capriotti’s as the best sandwich he had ever had. After a week, he practically dragged me there himself. He was right: It was the best sandwich I'd ever had.

After graduating, I worked as a portfolio manager for Wells Fargo for a few years. I ended up making a good deal of money as a portfolio manager and contacted my former roommate about going into business together. Both of us agreed to open a Capriotti’s Shop.

We opened our first location in the Las Vegas area in 2005. As we were building it, we ended up signing a deal with the next closest Capriotti’s that went up for sale. The previous owners of the brand explained that there were no opportunities to build more restaurants in the area, so we knew we were going to have to grow through acquisition. A year into it, I convinced the owners to build another location in the area, and luckily we landed the deal. At that time, I was still working as a portfolio manager, but I realized that I wanted franchising to be my full-time career.

My business partner and I decided we wanted to be large, multiunit franchisees. However, it was made clear to us that this was not what the owners wanted. Wanting to be fully invested in the brand and industry, I bought them out and closed as CEO of Capriotti’s in 2008.

I live and breathe Capriotti’s. I’m constantly looking to grow the unit count and reach our goal of 500 profitable restaurants. The brand was primarily a to-go sandwich shop, but we believed that it needed to make the shift into fast casual. So far things have been going very well.

When I became CEO, 27 of the 42 locations were operated by people either related by blood or marriage to the original founders. This was a big hurdle from the start, but after gaining their trust, every franchisee and future franchisee can see that I’m serious about making Capriotti’s the nation’s premier sandwich shop.

What was your first job?

My first paying job was working in the junior high school cafeteria.

What is your favorite menu item at Capriotti’s?

Right now, it's the chicken cheesesteak with mushrooms, onions, sweet peppers, and Romano cheese.

Other than Capriotti’s, what is your favorite type of food?

I eat a lot of sushi.

What are your interests outside the business?

I love my family—my wife and two little boys. I spend as much time with them as I can.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

My dad. He always took any instance as an opportunity to grow and flourish.

What is the best piece of advice you think all quick-serve executives should hear?

The only thing that will ever stop you from achieving your goals is you and the story you're telling yourself as to how you will fail.

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