Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

#9 on the Franchise 500: Jersey Mike's Succeeds By Supporting Its Franchisees

The #9 company on our Franchise 500 list recommitted to franchisee training in 2018, conducting more than 1,000 classes and launching a new management platform.

This story appears in the January 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Started :1987    
Total units: 1,483   
Cost to open: $178.5K–$746.3K

Courtesy of Jersey Mike’s

The origin story is straight out of a Hollywood movie. In 1975, a 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 where he’d been working for four years. Armed with info about the ’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.

Related: How Franchises Can Find the Right Technology Partners and CRMs

“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 500 top 10 list.

Related: These Roommates Changed Their Lives for a Sandwich -- and Built a Franchise Empire

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 system customized to the brand.

Related: Why This Franchisor Invests in Franchisees Who Have No Experience

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.

To see our complete Franchisee 500 rankings, please click here, or view more stories here.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks