Jersey Mike's Grew From Hometown Hero to National Powerhouse By Adopting This Mindset The brand, number two on the Franchise 500, is now poised to grow internationally by bringing its close-knit, neighborhood deli-feel to the world.

By Carl Stoffers

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This story appears in the January 2024 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Jersey Mike's Subs

To view our entire 2024 Franchise 500 list, including category rankings, click HERE

Started Franchsing: 1987

Total Unites: 2,557

Cost to Open: $214.4K-$1.4M

Jersey Mike's Subs is big, but it draws strength from thinking small. Rooted in the cozy corners of small-town New Jersey, the sub shop has pursued measured growth with a community-first approach for nearly 40 years. That strategy has drawn the right franchisees in the most receptive locales, and propelled Jersey Mike's to its highest Franchise 500 ranking ever. (Last year it was No. 3.) This year marks its 13th consecutive year in the ranking, and seventh consecutive year as No. 1 in its category.

Jersey Mike's "think small" strategy has also enabled some big ambitions: With well over 2,500 locations across the country, the company plans to open 1,000 additional stores in the U.S. over the next three years.

To Jersey Mike's, being community-centric means tapping a homegrown talent pool. "People that have worked for us for five or six years are now getting their own store," says Peter Cancro, Jersey Mike's founder and CEO. "That's how I started."

Related: The Secret to Jersey Mike's Increasing Popularity? Danny DeVito and the Special Olympics Are Only Half of It.

Cancro famously worked at the shop as a teenager, back when it was called Mike's Subs and had only one location, until he bought it.

The company also takes a strong role in supporting its franchisees, starting with identifying locations and negotiating leases. The goal is to help new owners "open to win," as Cancro puts it — launching for the lowest cost possible while setting up for success. "We're fighting for that 1,000-square-foot to 1,500-square-foot location, getting involved with the landlords directly before you sign a lease," he says.

Cancro is adamant about keeping the company's expansion at 13% to 15% unit growth per year. "You don't want to open up so many stores you'll start closing them," he says. To bolster steady growth, last year the company started building an infrastructure of area managers to work in the field with franchisees from the time they open onward. "There's a lot of weeks we'll open 15 stores and [now] it's not an issue or problem," Cancro says.

His ultimate goal is to open 7,500 to 10,000 Jersey Mike's locations in the U.S. and, beyond that, to make a push globally. Only three shops are currently in other countries — one in Mexico and two in Canada. "The opportunities are there," Cancro says. Even so, he insists the company's community-first philosophy won't change. "We'll expand internationally, but it's got to be with the right groups, the right people."

Related: Continued Expansion and Fair Wages Help Jersey Mike's Stay a Cut Above the Competition

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Carl Stoffers

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Business Editor

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