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|Headquarters||Jacksonville, Florida, United States|
|Products||Submarine sandwiches, Hot subs|
Firehouse Subs is a U.S.-based restaurant chain founded in 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida by former firefighter brothers Chris Sorensen and Robin Sorensen. Firehouse Subs has opened over 1,190 restaurants in 46 states as well as Puerto Rico, Canada and non-traditional locations.
Early history and growth
Brothers Chris Sorensen 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.
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 13 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 41 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. Fast forward to 2020, Firehouse Subs opened its first hospital location at Baptist Medical Center in the brand's hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. The brand opened its fourth college university location in January 2021 at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.
Restaurant concept and food
Chris Sorensen 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. No two of the more than 1,190 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 meats and cheeses, on toasted sub rolls, 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 company in 2017.
In 2015, the company introduced its first digital loyalty rewards program, Firehouse Rewards, which allows customers to earn and redeem points for each visit through a smartphone app.
Industry awards and recognition
Firehouse Subs is currently ranked America’s No. 1 Favorite Fast-Casual Chain], No. 1 Favorite Sandwich Chain], and No. 4 Favorite Chain overall]. In 2019, Firehouse Subs was named the No. 1 brand in the restaurant industry that “Supports Local Community Activities” and ranked No. 1 among Fast Casual brands in the categories of Food Quality, Taste and Flavor, and Service and Hospitality in Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics rankings. Newsweek named Firehouse Subs No. 1 in the fast casual restaurant industry on its 2019 list of America's Best Customer Service Brands.
Firehouse Subs has been 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.
Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation
Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit, 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, lifesaving equipment, and educational opportunities to first-responders and public safety organizations.
The mission of Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation is to impact the lifesaving capabilities, and the lives, of local heroes and their communities. The reach and mission of the Foundation is national in scope with first responders and public safety organizations from Jacksonville to Seattle. Since its inception, the Foundation has granted more than $55 million to hometown heroes in 49 states and Puerto Rico.
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