Charleys Philly Steaks
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|Headquarters||Columbus, Ohio, US|
Number of locations
Charleys Philly Steaks is an American restaurant chain of Philly cheesesteak stores headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Formerly known as Charley's Steakery and Charley's Grilled Subs, the franchise was established in 1986 on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and is still headquartered there. In 2021, there are over 600 locations in 47 states and 15 countries.
Like many American immigrant success stories, the founder of Charleys Philly Steaks, Charley Shin, took a risk and chased his American dream. While working at his mother’s Korean restaurant to pay for college, in 1985 Charley took an eventful spring break trip to Philadelphia, where he tasted his first Philly Cheesesteak.
After returning from Philadelphia, Charley persuaded his mother to invest her life savings of $48,000 into a new venture, brining cheesesteaks to Columbus, Ohio, and received an additional $3,000 investment from his uncle. As a college junior in 1986, Charley opened his first location in a 450-square foot space near the Ohio State University.
The restaurant became an instant hit with college students who craved indulgent offerings like Charleys’ signature Cheesesteaks, Gourmet Fries and Lemonade.
In 1991, Charley began franchising his concept to accelerate growth in new markets. The brand found early success in mall food courts and quickly became a leader within the sandwich category with a nationwide presence. This success led to a key partnership with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) in 1999 to open Charleys restaurants at military installations worldwide.
While the first International Charleys location opened its doors in Ontario, Canada in 1995, the AAFES partnership accelerated further international expansion efforts. Over 100 Charleys locations operate internationally. Charleys locations on military bases are not accessible to the general public.
Today, the Charleys Philly Cheesesteak empire continues to grow, with over 600 locations in 47 U.S. states and 16 countries worldwide.
Charley’s first restaurant was named Charley’s Steakery to highlight cheesesteaks as the primary menu offering. As deli items were incorporated into the menu, the brand transitioned to Charleys Grilled Subs. In 2012, the Charleys narrowed its focus on its core menu offerings, implementing a systemwide brand name change to “Charleys Philly Steaks”. This allowed the brand to focus on cheesesteaks and the namesake philly as the core menu item. The name change also launched a rebranding of store signage, wall décor, and product packaging.
In 2017, the brand introduced classic and boneless Wings, opening the first Charleys Philly Steaks and Wings. Charleys is always looking to the future of the brand, and these extended menu offerings allowed for them to satisfy current fans as well as reach a new base of customers.
Charleys Philly Steaks and Wings is expanding beyond mall and air force base locations to retail strip center, freestanding, and Walmart locations. As of 2021, Charleys has 35 standalone Charleys Philly Steaks locations and 51 standalone Charleys Philly Steaks and Wings locations. Many of these locations have drive-thrus to better serve guests with hot, fresh food.
The Charleys Philly Steaks menu features grilled-to-order cheesesteaks, loaded gourmet fries, and real fruit lemonades.
Charleys cheesesteaks are prepared with premium meat, like USDA choice steak or All-White Meat Chicken, All-Natural Cheeses, on toasted rolls. The Charleys Cheesesteak has generated controversy for using provolone, White American, swiss cheese, and mozzarella cheese instead of cheeze whiz, which is often considered to be the official cheesesteak topping. However, Charleys Cheesesteaks (made with grilled steak or chicken, sauteed green peppers and onions, and provolone cheese) most closely resembles the first Philly cheesesteak which was made in 1930. The Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan claimed, “Provolone is for aficionados, extra-sharp for the most discriminating among them.” Joey Vento the late owner of Geno's Steaks, claimed “We always recommend the provolone. That’s the real cheese.”
Charleys Cheesesteaks can also be dressed with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and pickle.
Charleys offers a variety of cheesesteak options.
- Steak Philly Cheesesteak
- Chicken Philly Cheesesteak
- Chicken California Cheesesteak
- Veggie Delight Cheesesteak
- Pepperoni Cheesesteak
- Chicken Buffalo Cheesesteak
- Chicken Teriyaki Cheesesteak
- Italian Deluxe Cheesesteak
While they can be enjoyed “topping-less”, the gourmet fries at Charleys are especially popular and feature cheddar cheese sauce, bacon pieces, diced jalapenos, and ranch dressing on their fries.
The refreshing real fruit lemonades are crafted with three key ingredients—water, sugar, and real fruit. Customers can enjoy Original lemonade, or flavors like peach, strawberry, and blueberry made with real fruit. The brand has also offered seasonal lemonade flavors as limited time promotions.
Charleys Philly Steaks & Wings locations feature these core menu items in addition to the expanded Wing menu. Charleys’ Wings are hand-tossed with 10 chef-inspired flavors, available in boneless and classic.
Charleys Rewards & Loyalty
In summer 2020, Charleys Philly Steaks launched a mobile app for iOS and Android devices in partnership with Punchh. The app-based loyalty program, Charleys Rewards, provides an easy-to-use platform for customers to place orders on in addition to earning and redeeming rewards.
When customers enroll in Charleys Rewards, they receive points for each dollar spent with Charleys Cheesesteak. Points can then be redeemed for exclusive offers. Charleys Rewards members also receive drink and menu item promotions, free food on their birthdays and Charleys Rewards registration anniversary, referral bonuses, and other customer perks.
The Charleys Kids Foundation partners with local and international programs that empower kids through education, food, and mentorship.
Participating Charleys locations donate 10 cents from every combo meal sold to be re-invested into community organizations through Charleys Kids. Coinboxes are also available at most locations for customers to contribute additional donations.
Columbus, OH based GOSH Enterprises, Inc. is a multi-brand restaurant company whose portfolio includes: Charleys Philly Steaks, BIBIBOP Asian Grill, and Lennys Grill and Subs. GOSH Enterprises, Inc. is privately owned by Charley Shin.
Charleys Philly Steaks
Founded in 1986, over 600 locations today across the globe serve Charleys signature grilled-to-order cheesesteaks in addition to loaded Gourmet Fries and refreshing real fruit Lemonades. Most Charleys Cheesesteaks locations are owned by franchisees.
BIBIBOP Asian Grill
Inspired by the traditional Korean dish Bibimbap, BIBIBOP Asian Grill is all about well-being, serving healthy & affordable Asian food at more than 40 restaurants nationwide. Opening its first restaurant in 2013, BIBIBOP is focused on the well-being of customers, teammates, and communities; serving healthy and affordable meals, providing jobs and training, and giving back to local organizations that focus on health, hunger, and education.
Lennys Grill & Subs
Most recently, Lennys Grill & Subs joined GOSH’s family of brands. Hailing from Memphis, TN, Lennys Grill & Subs offers unique grilled and deli sandwiches crafted with freshly baked bread, premium meats sliced to order, and freshly prepared toppings.
- Chung, Grace. "How A Korean Immigrant Amassed A Food Empire By Serving An American Favorite". Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- " Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine." Charleys Philly Steaks. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
- General sources
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- Chan, Candy Kit Har (1994-11-25). "Steaking His Claim: Crafty Charley Shin Proves Fast Food, Franchising". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on 2011-05-16.