Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | November 2014

Start to Finish: Peter Cancro

Founder and CEO of Jersey Mike’s talks about how he got into the sandwich business.
Quick service CEO Peter Cancro shares his motivation and passion for sandwich business.
jersey mike’s

After 39 years in the quick-serve industry, I still find it a privilege to do what I do. This is such a rewarding business for those who are willing to put in the time and the effort. I remember working at Mike’s Subs, the local sub shop on the Jersey Shore, when I was 14 years old. After about four years of working and learning, I decided to take over and purchase the shop when I was 17 years old, my senior year of high school.

Something clicked in my head when the owner put it up for sale; this industry has so much potential, and so many customers were demanding our product in other parts of the country. I knew it would be my long-term path, and it hasn’t slowed down since my first day.

This industry continues to be a source of constant motivation. As a brand, we should be hitting around 1,000 stores sometime next August. To me, it feels like we’re just getting started. Even though we started strong in 1975, there is always new business to develop.

Over the years, there have been so many ups and downs, but my motivation is constant growth and development. I am obsessed with finding new areas to develop and growing the brand because it’s the people that keep me going. The franchisees, owners, operators—they all have the same belief as the core of our mission statement. All of them know they can make a difference.

On the surface, this industry doesn’t seem like it could yield such happiness, but it really does for me. I get to share my life, my business, and my passion for wanting to make a difference with crews, franchisees, and customers all over the world.

There are always challenges, and I’ve seen a fair amount of them since 1975, but this is such a dynamic time for the quick-service industry. There is a challenge out there for owners, operators, and even CEOs. And with almost 40 years in this industry, I could not be more excited for what lies ahead.

What was your first job?

Mowing lawns and washing cars.

When did you first enter the quick-service industry?

I started working at a local sub shop when I was 14 years old.

What is your favorite product at Jersey Mike’s?

No. 12, the Cancro Special: roast beef, pepperoni, and cheese on wheat.

What is your favorite restaurant or type of food (excluding Jersey Mike’s)?

A local mom-and-pop Italian shop would be my next stop if I couldn’t eat at Jersey Mike’s.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

My passion is this business. I love it and want to continue to develop it every day. If I can find the time, I enjoy running and playing tennis.

Who are some leaders that inspire you?

There were two local businessmen in my town growing up that I admire to this day: Jack Baker of Baker’s Lobster Shanty and Bob Hoffman of Hoffman’s Ice Cream. These two men were my role models in the food business and always gave unconditionally to their community.

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

Put other people before yourself. You have to do the work. You have to be the example.


I'm from Ocean County and know and love these local landmarks. To have role models that still have successful businesses like the Lobster Shanty and Hoffmann's ice cream on the Jersey Shore, show that Jersey Mike's has the know-how of what it takes to succeed.

The feeling we get when people come in and tell us how they feel coming into our Jersey Mikes provides us with so much pride. When our dining area is full and we hear the laughter and chatter, or see grown men walk In and start whistling or singing to the radio, I am grateful everyday for the opportunity to own a Jersey Mike's. We work really hard to have a happy place to eat, but most importantly, a happy place to work. Giving back to our community is an extension of what we have been doing all our lives and now, we can take it up a notch or two. Thanks for all you have done to provide this opportunity Peter!

As someone who admires what Jersey Mike's has done for his peers, and the corporate culture it has established, I just want to chime in and say, "great job" to Peter and his associates. Just as you have looked up to the Hoffmans and the Bakers, another generation is looking up to you.

Pete, I am so proud to have eaten many times in your original store when I was living and working in Pt. Pleasant in the late 70's.  I was bartending at The Ark and Jenkinson's before leaving for AC.  I was just in Daytona Beach and found a Jersey Mike's.  I sat there by myself enjoying my favorite and thinking about what a kid you were back then.  And the food and service was the same as every other Jersey Mike's I've been to.  Congratulations and continued success.  Thank you.

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