Jersey Mike’s has among the loftiest growth targets in the business, but not without reason. The 68-year-old brand expanded by 1,055 restaurants in the last five years. The chain expects to open 350 locations in 2024, before ramping up in 2026 to 400–450 openings. After, CEO Peter Cancro told QSR earlier, Jersey Mike’s would settle into a cadence of 13–15 percent annual unit growth that, with a footprint as large as the sandwich brand would have by then, would mean opening 10–15 stores per week on the road to 5,000-plus domestic restaurants within five years. Ultimately, Cancro added, Jersey Mike’s believes it can spread 10,000 locations through the U.S.
Adding credence to Cancro’s figures is the fact the brand has a history of living up to its projections. In 2021, the brand put 250 openings on the board. It reached 246. The following was 300 net. Jersey Mike’s posted 297.
And along this path, the brand surged its average-unit volumes from $824,000 pre-COVID to $1.210 million at the end of 2022—a figure that’s closer to $1.35 million today.
However, in the more than five decades Cancro has led Jersey Mike’s, it hasn’t dipped much into the international opportunity. Yet there’s been interest, particularly in the U.K. and Canada, Cancro said.
But in regard to that latter market, intrigue officially evolved into development, with the company announcing Wednesday a 300-store deal with Burger King and Taco Bell franchise operator Redberry Restaurants. It signaled the first major international expansion plan for Jersey Mike’s since its founding.
“We are proud to partner with Ken Otto and his team at Redberry,” Cancro said in a statement. “Their extensive history and reputation in the restaurant business are second to none. Also critical to our company is that they share the same culture and mission statement: to give and make a difference. They are committed to their team members and their local communities.”
Redberry owns and operates 180-plus units across Canada. With Jersey Mike’s 300 stores factored in, which it plans to open by 2034, through a combination of Redberry-owned-and-operated units and supported franchisee locations, the franchisor now has signed agreements for over 600 additional restaurants. “We’re thrilled that Jersey Mike’s entrusted us with bringing their iconic brand to Canada,” Ken Otto, CEO of Redberry, said in a statement. “We resonated strongly with their culture, product, and mission, and are excited to ‘Make it Happen’ for both Jersey Mike’s and their Canadian fans.”
Redberry plans to purchase two existing Jersey Mike’s in Kitchener and London and remodel them early this year to the brand’s updated image. It will then open five stores in Ontario in 2024, “forming the foundation for rapid new store growth.”
Jersey Mike’s new image famously infiltrated the U.S. market starting in January 2020. The company pledged to pay for all franchisees’ upcoming retrofits at $75,000 per location, or a roughly $150 million investment in the system. Jersey Mike’s hadn’t undergone a retrofit initiative since 2009–2011. The brand paid the majority of that as well, but the bill totaled just $15 million.
Jersey Mike’s took about a year and a half to complete the project, much of which unfurled during COVID shutdowns. The brand would close units on Sunday nights and reopen Saturday. Early results saw comps bump 15–20 percent out of the gates. Changes included everything from new floors and counters to tiles on the backline. Units today also have another counter and slicer so off-premises tickets are made on the back line away from dine-in guests.
Otto added Wednesday, in addition to building its own Jersey Mike’s, growth would be accelerated “by way of supporting other franchisees to join the Jersey Mike’s story in every province across Canada.”
Jersey Mike’s earned $2.68 billion in U.S. systemwide sales in 2022. It ended the year with 2,379 franchised restaurants and 18 company run, good for 2,397 total. The chain’s net growth of 297 was third only to Starbucks (429) and Crumbl Cookies (363) among the country’s top-50 grossing quick-service chains.
Jersey Mike’s Canada announcement also joined international news from sandwich competitor Jimmy John’s. The Inspire Brands-run chain announced Wednesday it plans to enter the country alongside Latin America—both firsts for the entirely domestic concept.
Firehouse Subs recently announced seven openings for Canada as well, with goals to reach “hundreds” in the country, which is home to Restaurant Brands International’s main HQ. Subway boasts roughly 3,000 Canadian units.