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|Headquarters||Jacksonville, Florida, United States|
|Products||Submarine sandwiches, Hot subs|
Firehouse Subs (Firehouse of America, LLC) is a U.S.-based, fast casual restaurant chain founded in 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida by former firefighter brothers Robin and Chris Sorensen. Firehouse Subs has opened over 1,135 franchise restaurants in 44 states as well as Puerto Rico and Canada.
In 2005, Chris and Robin Sorensen created the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation providing funding, life-saving equipment and educational opportunities to first-responders and public safety organizations.
Brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen followed the same career path as their father, Captain Rob Sorensen, a 43-year veteran of the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department in Jacksonville, Florida. After a few attempts at various business ventures they opened a restaurant, Firehouse Subs.
Over the period of 23 years, Firehouse Subs has opened more than 1,135 restaurants across 44 states and Puerto Rico, and internationally in Canada. Current plans for expansion in 2018 are focused on entering new states in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and West Coast U.S., continued international expansion, as well as growth in nontraditional locations, like airports and college campuses.
Firehouse Subs first attempted franchising in 1995. Soon after, the founders decided to pull back on the idea, eventually buying back those franchised locations. Instead, they chose to focus on operating company-owned stores only, especially in the Jacksonville area.
In 1998, Firehouse Subs surpassed 10 restaurants, and later that year opened the first location outside of Florida.
In 2000, the founders decided to take a different approach, using consultants to plan franchise growth. They were able to set up financing for potential franchisees. The second wave of franchising began in 2001. By 2002, Firehouse Subs was opening its 50th restaurant. A year later, Firehouse Subs opened its 100th restaurant.
In 2012 the company opened its 500th restaurant, ending the year with nearly 600. In July 2016, Firehouse Subs opened its 1,000th restaurant.
Chris and Robin Sorensen were approached by Caribbean Restaurants, LLC about expanding in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico and opened the first store in 2011. Currently, the company operates 11 restaurants in Puerto Rico.
In 2015 Firehouse Subs launched in Canada, opening the first restaurant in Oshawa, Ontario in October as a partnership with OnFire Restaurant Group. Currently, the group operates 16 Canadian restaurants, with plans to open a total of 90 in Ontario alone.
In June 2017, the brand opened its first non-traditional airport location at Jacksonville International. In December 2017, the brand's second airport location opened at Orlando International. In April 2018, the brand opened its first on-campus college location at Western New England University.
Restaurant concept and food
Chris and Robin Sorensen turned to the firehouse for inspiration when it came time to design their first restaurant. It featured donated firefighter gear and memorabilia, and other elements reminiscent of a fire department. Each restaurant features a custom mural, hand-drawn and painted at the company's headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. The murals reflect fire and police service unique to each restaurant's community or town. None of the more than 1,135 murals painted are the same.
The menu, which features hot specialty subs, salads, and other seasonal items, takes inspiration from the firehouse with names like Hook & Ladder®, Engineer®, and Firehouse Hero®. The subs are prepared with steam-heated meats and cheeses, on a toasted sub roll, and served "Fully Involved®" with vegetables and condiments. Chris and Robin Sorensen remain in charge of the menu, and work in tandem with Firehouse Subs' Director of Product Development, Jay Miller, who joined the team in 2017.
The number one selling sub remains the Hook & Ladder®, served with smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, and Monterey Jack cheese. Other favorites include the Firehouse Hero®, Engineer Sub®, Firehouse Meatball® and Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket™. Other seasonal items have appeared on the menu in limited or company-wide releases.
In 2015, the brand introduced its first digital loyalty rewards program, Firehouse Rewards, which allows guests to earn and redeem points for each visit through a smartphone app.
Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation
Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was founded in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The company's founders Chris Sorensen and Robin Sorensen traveled to Mississippi where they donated food to first responders and survivors; this experience led to the creation of the foundation. It provides funding, life-saving equipment and educational opportunities to first-responders and public safety organizations.
By 2018, it has given more than $35 million.
Industry awards and recognition
Firehouse Subs is recognized as a leader in the fast-casual segment. For the last three years, Firehouse Subs was ranked No. 1 by Technomic's Chain Restaurant Consumers' Choice Awards among fast casual brands in the categories of overall brand (2017), food quality (2016), service (2015) and atmosphere (2014). Forbes recognized Firehouse Subs in 2018 as a Best Franchise to Buy.
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