When considering franchising a new business, it is always interesting to look to those who have “made it” in the franchise field. Sometimes it may be difficult to see how a single location business could eventually be a national or international brand. Well, here is a story of a brand that has grown exceptionally well that started with a 17 year old sandwich store owner.
A Story about a Franchise Brand: Jersey Mike’s
The concept was born in 1956 originally as a mom and pop sandwich operation. The concept was much like many other deli’s and sandwich shops at the time where owner operators ran their own local sandwich place and served excellent products with very little branding or business model around it. In 1972 Peter Cancro was a highschool football player who made money working in the store during summers and when he could. When he turned 17, he turned to his highschool football coach for a loan and bought the store.
Over the years, he had customers come to him and ask to open stores in their home town and local markets which lead to the realization that there was more of a market out there than what he could handle on his own.
With this market opportunity, Cancro started franchising the company in 1987 and began to branch out across the U.S., but at a steady, measured pace in order to provide consistent support and great customer experiences in each market new Jersey Mike’s franchises. The company is now ramping up its expansion efforts, particularly in its home turf of New York and New Jersey as well as Northern California, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta and other markets. In 2010, the company had opened 430 franchises primarily on the East Coast, today there are 732 stores open in the U.S. (with close to 1,400 when adding in those in development).
Jersey Mike’s is looking to open 200 stores in 2014, but Cancro sees a wide open opportunity for the concept. He thinks Jersey Mike’s could eventually become a 5,000 domestic store chain, and potentially another 5,000 internationally.
But an eventual Initial Public Offering isn’t on the table.
“We probably would have gone public years ago, but now the size and strength [of] our expansion is mostly franchised,” Cancro said. “We see ourselves staying private and continuing to grow that way.”
How is this possible with giant sandwich franchises like Subway, Quizno’s, Potbelly and others in the mix and a crowded market segment? It seems that focusing on quality, consistency and franchise validation help a great deal. Jersey Mike’s has been focused on product quality from day 1. Whether the chain has 1 store or 1,400, the customer will have a great product, fun dining experience and excellent customer service. This has been supported through great franchise relationship management, solid systems development and an ongoing commitment to the evolution of the brand.