• Puesto in San Diego, Calif.

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  • Educating Students at the Francis Tuttle School of Culinary Arts in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Foodservice News

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Blog Network

jCarbonara
Joe Carbonara

Go the Distance: The Most Important Three Feet in the House

Many foodservice professionals often refer to the tabletop as the most important three feet in the house. That's because the tabletop represents the aspect of the foodservice operation that diners interact with most. So it would seem logical, then, that most restaurant and foodservice operators would put in plenty of thought, minding every detail, when developing their tabletops (page 18). Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.

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jMartinez
Juan Martinez

Foodservice Design Parameters for Successful Co-Branding

 The concept of co-branding, meaning having two restaurants share the same space, is nothing new. Sometimes it works. Other times it does not. So what’s the difference between successful and unsuccessful co-branding initiatives?

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jStiegler
Jerry Stiegler

McDonald’s Still Stumbling, Unemployment News Brightens, and U.S. Retail Sales Dip

The Commerce Department reported weak September retail sales but restaurants enjoyed a fair increase. First-time jobless claims fell to a 14-year low. The Sysco/U.S. Foods merger may have hit a stumbling block. Malcolm Knapp is optimistic about casual restaurant sales. McDonald’s is still searching for answers.

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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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