#9 on the Franchise 500: Jersey Mike's Succeeds By Supporting Its Franchisees
Total units: 1,483
Cost to open: $178.5K–$746.3K
The origin story is straight out of a Hollywood movie. In 1975, a high school senior named Peter Cancro knocked on his football coach’s door and asked for a loan to buy Mike’s Subs, the sandwich shop on the Jersey shore where he’d been working for four years. Armed with info about the business’s earnings potential, the 17-year-old made his case. Coach Rod Smith, who was also a banker, saw something in the budding entrepreneur; he loaned Cancro $125,000, and Mike’s Subs had a new owner -- one who, under state law, was still too young to operate a slicing machine.
“Peter’s entrepreneurial spirit is the foundation of our culture,” says Hoyt Jones, president of Jersey Mike’s Subs. (Peter Cancro is still the company’s CEO.) “From the time he started working at Mike’s Subs at 14 years old, he exuded the values that our company was founded on.”
Jersey Mike’s is now the fastest-growing sandwich chain in the U.S., pulling in north of $1 billion coast to coast and on track to have 2,000 locations open by 2020. That has earned it a new distinction: This year marks Jersey Mike’s debut on our Franchise 500 top 10 list.
Besides the freshly sliced, made-to-order subs and the “hometown feel” that keep customers returning, Jones emphasizes that the company’s twin pillars of success are franchisee training and franchisee support.
“In 2018, our focus has been on training, centrally themed around improving the customer experience,” he explains. And to do it, they’re getting out of the corporate classroom and into franchisees’ actual sandwich shops. Jersey Mike’s has conducted more than 1,000 classes in the field, reaching more than 10,000 attendees, and rolled out a new learning management system customized to the brand.
The company is also investing heavily in franchisee support. “The corporate office provides hands-on support throughout the methodical process of opening a restaurant,” says Jones, “and area directors offer step-by-step guidance on everything from choosing a contractor to installing phone lines.” In this, Jones draws a parallel to the company’s founding story: It’s supporting its franchisees just like coach Rod Smith once supported a young, aspiring entrepreneur. “It only takes one person to believe in you and invest in your future,” Jones says.