Firehouse Subs offers cash to first responders, vets to open restaurant locations

A exterior of a Firehouse Subs restaurant is shown in this undated handout image. Sandwich chain Firehouse Subs will offer $100,000 in cash to current or former first responders or veterans who agree to open one of its restaurants. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Restaurant Brands International Inc.

As competitors circle the market, Firehouse Subs is on a mission to lure in an uncommon set of restaurant owners to help it grow the brand in Canada.

The sandwich chain owned by Restaurant Brands International announced Wednesday that it will offer $100,000 to current or former first responders or veterans who agree to open a Firehouse Subs restaurant. The offer will also stand for second and third restaurants that responders or veterans open.

The program is meant to reduce the barriers to entry for restaurant franchising. Firehouse Subs said it costs between $400,000 and $500,000 to build and open one of its restaurants.

The company is targeting first responders and veterans because Firehouse Subs was started by former firefighter brothers in Jacksonville, Fla., nearly 30 years ago.

“We really believe that this is tapping into our roots,” Mike Hancock, president of Firehouse Subs said Wednesday.

Story continues below advertisement

“We have a small number of first responders already in the system. We’d like to have a lot more.”

He estimates less than five per cent of Firehouse restaurant operators are first responders or veterans but wants to see that figure hit 15 or even 20 per cent.

Get the day's top news, political, economic, and current affairs headlines, delivered to your inbox once a day.

Get daily National news

Get the day's top news, political, economic, and current affairs headlines, delivered to your inbox once a day.
By providing your email address, you have read and agree to Global News' Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Hancock’s pitch comes as Firehouse is spending tens of millions on expanding its restaurant count in Canada.

In November, Firehouse announced plans to open seven new locations across Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan through early 2024. By the end of the year, Hancock said Canadians will see between 35 and 40 more restaurants across the country, with most concentrated in Western Canada and others in Ontario, where the brand counts 65 locations.

But as Firehouse expands so are competitors.

U.S. rivals Jimmy John’s and Jersey Mike’s both announced plans to expand rapidly in Canada last week and European café chain Pret A Manger, which is known for its wide selection of sandwiches and baguettes, opened its first stand-alone restaurant in the country on Tuesday.

Longtime competitors Subway, Mr. Sub and Quiznos linger in the Canadian market, and Tim Hortons, which is also owned by Restaurant Brands International, sells plenty of sandwiches too.

But Hancock’s not intimidated.

Story continues below advertisement

“We really feel like we have a distinctive model from our franchisees and then when it comes to our products, our guests tell us the same thing — that we have the best hot sandwiches in the industry — so we feel good putting our hot sandwiches head to head with anybody,” he said.

When Jimmy John’s and Jersey Mike’s announced their Canadian plans, marketing expert Joanne McNeish felt the companies would have to spend heavily to build the necessary brand awareness.

McNeish, an associate professor at Toronto Metropolitan University specializing in marketing, said competitors like Firehouse and Subway “will not hesitate to fight back” with discounts, loyalty programs and coupons.

For now, Hancock is content to continue in expansion mode and to keep revamping existing restaurants so they are outfitted with a “kitchen of the future” that helps get sandwiches to customers quicker.

“Sometimes they feel they have to wait a little longer for a Firehouse sandwich than they do for some other concepts, so we redesigned our entire back of house,” he said.

The redesign included new technology that helps the company steam ingredients in a third of the time the task used to take.

Guests in Jacksonville are also piloting kiosks that make the order process easier and more efficient.


Sponsored content