• University of Michigan East Quad in Ann Arbor

  • Yale’s Dining Ventures West

  • Sales at Chicken Restaurants Ready to Take Flight Again?

  • DSR of the Month, July 2014: Chris Monico, Senior Project Manager C&T Design & Equipment Co., Indianapolis

Foodservice News

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Blog Network

jCarbonara
Joe Carbonara

Summer Scholars

If you saw the cover of this issue promoting our coverage of college and university foodservice innovators and thought the July edition of FE&S is not for you, think again. What's happening in college and university foodservice today will shape other foodservice industry segments for years to come.

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jMartinez
Juan Martinez

Designing for Flexibility: How Much Can You Afford Not to Do?

Many factors come into play when designing a restaurant. The décor and ambience represent obvious considerations but one design element many concepts fail to consider is building flexibility into the front-of-house, middle-of-house and back-of-house designs.

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jStiegler
Jerry Stiegler

Casual Restaurant Sales Still Weak, McDonald's Biggest Competition and Much More

This week we report on some preliminary findings of what operators think about the proposed Sysco/US Foods merger, share Malcolm Knapp’s thoughts about casual restaurant sales for the rest of the year, look at the success of Taco Bell’s breakfast program, compare Chick-fil-A to McDonald’s and a whole lot more.

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Greg Christian
Greg Christian

Outcomes for Year One of a New, Self-Op School Lunch Program

As the 2014-2015 school year draws to a close, I'd like to share the final outcomes of Nardin Academy's new self-operated foodservice program.

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Highlights

Chain Innovators: Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs is hot, posting double-digit revenue and unit increases last year with even bigger gains anticipated this year. Don Fox, chief executive officer, credits the surge in part to loosening of credit markets, which enabled it to open 43 stores last year and 30 as of mid-May this year, with another 50 to 70 to be added by year's end.

Firehouse SubsA brighter lending picture isn't the only thing fueling the fire. The chain has made smart moves to differentiate itself and build momentum. Top among them is steaming the meats and cheeses used in its signature hot subs. Each Firehouse kitchen features customized steamers that, in 2 minutes and 45 seconds, gently steam fresh-sliced, pre-portioned meats and cheeses to order. Staff place the fillings on a warm, toasted bun with cool, fresh vegetables and condiments. "Steaming at the point of building the sandwich creates a unique flavor profile and outstanding cheese melt," Fox says.

A radio ad strategy has also helped move the needle. Launched in late 2009, the campaign features the two firefighter founders as spokespeople, doesn't involve discounting, and is all about building brand awareness. It has driven double-digit sales increases in markets where it's used, Fox says.

Looking to build incremental sales and increase the proportion of customer who dine in, Firehouse is among the first chains to begin rolling out a new freestyle beverage dispensing system, currently in its Jacksonville market. "We've seen double-digit gains in traffic since the rollout, with significant increases in both drink incidents and dine-in traffic," Fox says. "It's a win-win."

Fast Facts

  • Year founded: 1994
  • Headquarters: Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Menu specialties: Hot subs, steamed to make the flavors burst, large portions
  • Service model: Fast-casual
  • Units: 430 in 24 states, as of May 2011 (93 percent franchised)
  • 2010 sales: $255,663,745
  • 2010 growth: Revenue increased by 13.4 percent and the number of units grew by 11.3 percent
  • Projected 2011 growth: 16.3 percent increase in revenues and 16.6 percent increase in units
  • Typical location: Strip centers and out parcels
  • Average unit size: 1,750 sq. ft./50 seats
  • Average kitchen space: 650 sq. ft.
  • Average covers per day: 170
  • Average check: $10.90
  • Total equipment investment per unit: $48,000–$65,000
  • Total unit cost: $200,300–$385,675

Key Players

  • Chief Executive Officer: Don Fox
  • Director of Supply Chain Services: Matt Riddleberger
  • Director of Franchise Development: Greg Delks
  • Smallwares & Equipment Dealer: B&J Peerless
  • Food Distributor: SYGMA
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