Firehouse Subs

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Firehouse of America LLC
Firehouse Subs
Founded1994; 25 years ago (1994) in Jacksonville, Florida
FounderRobin Sorensen
Chris Sorensen
HeadquartersJacksonville, Florida, United States
Area served
United States
Puerto Rico
ProductsSubmarine sandwiches, Hot subs

Firehouse of America, LLC d.b.a. Firehouse Subs is a U.S.-based, fast casual restaurant chain founded in 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida by former firefighter brothers Robin and Chris Sorensen.[1] Firehouse Subs has opened over 1,180 restaurants in 46 states as well as Puerto Rico[2] and Ontario, Canada.[3]

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.[4]


Firehouse Subs in Gahanna, Ohio
Inside a Firehouse Subs restaurant in Jacksonville, FL

Early history[edit]

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.[5] After a few attempts at various business ventures they opened a restaurant, Firehouse Subs.

On October 10, 1994, the first Firehouse Subs restaurant opened in Jacksonville, Florida.[6]


An example of Firehouse Subs catering

Over the period of 25 years, Firehouse Subs has opened more than 1,180 restaurants across 46 states and Puerto Rico, and internationally in Canada. Current plans for expansion in 2019 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.[7]


Firehouse Subs first attempted franchising in 1995. Soon after, the founders decided to pull back on the idea, eventually buying back those franchised locations.[8] 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.[9]

International expansion[edit]

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.[10] 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.[11]

In June 2017, the brand opened its first non-traditional airport location at Jacksonville International.[12] In December 2017, the brand's second airport location opened at Orlando International.[13] In April 2018, the brand opened its first on-campus college location at Western New England University.[14]

Restaurant concept and food[edit]

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.[6] 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 1,135 murals painted are the same.[15]


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®.[16] 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.[17]

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.

Firehouse Rewards[edit]

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.[18]

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation[edit]

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, a separate 501c3 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.[4]

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 – more than 3,800 organizations receiving much needed grant awards. [19]

Since inception, the Foundation has given more than $46 million to hometown heroes in 49 states and Puerto Rico and Canada.

Each Firehouse Subs restaurant recycles leftover, five-gallon pickle buckets, available to guests for a $2 donation to the Foundation. Donation canisters on register counters explain the non-profit’s mission and collect spare change, while the round up program allows guests to “round up” their bill to the nearest dollar. All funds raised benefit the Foundation. The Foundation is also the beneficiary of a Charitable Sales Promotion where Firehouse of America (FOA) will donate to the Foundation a sum equivalent to 0.11% of all gross sales with a minimum donation of $1,000,000 through December 31, 2019.

The Foundation celebrates its largest annual fundraiser, Public Safety Month, each October. Guests are invited to support the initiative by visiting their local Firehouse Subs restaurant and donating $1, $5 or $25 for a paper medallion placed in restaurants, which then patrons sign to create a mural of support for those who serve the community. Proceeds benefit the Foundation.

Testimonies showcasing the Foundation’s impact stretch far and wide, from the story of South Daytona Fire Department in Florida using awarded extrication equipment to save a car crash victim just six days after the equipment was delivered, to Sgt. Schmittou from Northville Township Police Department in Michigan using a granted automated external defibrillator (AED) on the first emergency call of his career to save a man in sudden cardiac arrest. The Foundation’s impact is also evident in natural disaster response, as was witnessed during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 when a rescue boat delivered weeks before the storm aided in the successful recovery of more than 200 stranded civilians. Inspiring stories are oftentimes shared on the Foundation’s website, as well as YouTube channel, helping guests see firsthand how their small contributions actually help save lives.

In addition to disaster relief, scholarships, public safety prevention education and military support, raised funds are used to purchase crucial emergency response equipment such as thermal imaging cameras, which can detect hot spots and heat given off by people that may be trapped in a burning building, allowing firefighters to accurately locate victims through the heavy smoke.

In addition, the Foundation has granted: · extrication tools · automated external defibrillators (AEDs) · all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) with rescue and wildfire suppression capabilities · carbon monoxide (CO) detectors · fire extinguisher training systems · bunker gear · K-9 units · bulletproof vests

Industry awards and recognition[edit]

Firehouse Subs is recognized as a leader in the fast-casual segment. Newsweek recently named Firehouse Subs No. 1 in the fast casual restaurant industry on its 2019 list of America’s Best Customer Service Brands. [20] In 2018, Firehouse Subs was named the No. 1 brand in the restaurant industry that “Supports Local Community Activities” and ranks No. 1 among Fast Casual brands in “Food Quality” and “Taste and Flavor” in Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics rankings. Firehouse Subs was also named No. 2 in “America’s Favorite Fast Casual Chain” rankings by Technomic Ignite.[21]

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),[22] food quality (2016),[23] service (2015)[24] and atmosphere (2014).[25] Forbes recognized Firehouse Subs in 2018 as a Best Franchise to Buy.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Firehouse Subs - News Room | Firehouse Subs". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "About". Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  5. ^ "Firehouse Subs - Our Story | Firehouse Subs". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  6. ^ a b Elkins, Kathleen (2016-11-18). "From $100 to 1000 stores: The surprise success of Firehouse Subs". CNBC. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  7. ^ "How Two Firemen Created an Empire of Sub Shops". Fortune. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  8. ^ Editor, Toby Weber, Contributing. "Firehouse Subs Eyes International Expansion - restaurant development + design". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  10. ^ "Firehouse Subs spreads to Puerto Rico". 2011-08-21. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  11. ^ Ltd., Kostuch Media (2015-10-22). "Firehouse Subs Opens First Canadian Location". Foodservice and Hospitality Magazine. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  12. ^ "Firehouse Subs Opens at JAX; Restaurant's First Airport Location :: Jet Stream".
  13. ^ "Orlando Int'l Airport debuts new floor art, Firehouse Subs - Where Orlando Turns First For Breaking News, Weather, and Traffic".
  15. ^ "Meet The Artist Responsible For EVERY Custom Mural Inside 1000+ Firehouse Subs Restaurants". Foodbeast. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  16. ^ "Firehouse Subs - Specialty Subs, Hot Subs, Cold Subs, Salads, Catering for lunch and dinner". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  17. ^ danny (2018-05-30). "The Future of Firehouse Subs". QSR magazine. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  18. ^ "Firehouse Subs - Firehouse Rewards". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Firehouse Subs named country's favorite chain; Maple Street Biscuit Co. makes another list". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  23. ^ "Technomic Announces 2016 Consumers' Choice Awards for Chain Restaurants". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  24. ^ "Award winning chains 2015". Restaurant Business. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  25. ^ "Award winning chains". Restaurant Business. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  26. ^ "Best and Worst Franchises to Buy 2018". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-07-09.

External links[edit]