Firehouse Subs® Restaurant Design Innovation is Jump Starting the Future
Brands are challenged on an ongoing basis to anticipate consumer behavior and course correct to meet ever-changing habits. For more than 25 years, Firehouse Subs has worked diligently to meet the needs of its dynamic customer base by anticipating changes long before guests were even fully aware of what they wanted. Remaining at the forefront of innovation requires hard work and those ideas recently came to fruition when we launched our newest and arguably most major restaurant redesign in our history.
The Firehouse Subs “Restaurant of the Future” opened last year following the culmination of extensive consumer research and analysis of guest trends and expectations. As the Jacksonville, Fla.-based leader in fast-casual sandwich franchises, Firehouse Subs invested more than $1 million on the redesign that will eventually showcase the path to franchise growth in the future. Although other locations will benefit from the prototype restaurant’s up-front research and development, subsequent redesigns will not carry the prototype’s price tag.
The new restaurant structure is designed to reduce labor costs and boost service speed as well as help franchisees cope with mounting labor pressure and evolving consumer behavior.
Case in point: the uptick in demand for off-premise business, or to-go orders. Off-premise now makes up 62% of Firehouse Subs’ business, up from 47% of sales just six years ago.
Directed by this data, we moved the kitchen area from the front of the store toward the rear, allowing the new design to highlight the off-premise pickup area. This will be especially beneficial given the continual acceptance of third-party delivery services such as UberEats, Grubhub, and DoorDash, among others.
“In existing restaurants, the pick-up location is nebulous,” Firehouse Subs CEO Don Fox told Restaurant Business magazine. “So, people linger and loiter in an unorganized fashion. Now we have offered a much more specific, dedicated area.”
For many years, Firehouse Subs required all locations to have at least 50 seats. The new prototype only has seating for 28, including an eight-seat community table which is a reaction to the decline in dine-in business across the industry.
“You’re reducing the dining room size, but we always want to appeal to families or have seating for a larger group,” Fox said. “Additionally, we wanted the new design to have greater efficiency.”
The new prototype’s kitchen is 25% smaller than the original. It features a custom-designed sandwich steamer with a drawer—instead of a clamshell top—that can be stacked to save space and steam more sandwiches at the same time. What’s more, the new equipment shaves a full minute off the previous time of two minutes and 45 seconds required to heat a sandwich, Fox said.
This will result in reduced labor costs and boosted service. Eventually, we plan to operate the new prototype with one fewer person per shift than at existing units.
“If that proves out, that will be a substantive savings,” Fox said. “I really am confident we’re going to get some reduction in kitchen labor and a reduction in speed of service. Anything we might do to ease that burden is very welcome.”
As a system, Firehouse Subs is designed to position its franchisees for success with a strong brand identity, excellent franchise relationships, and a passionate executive leadership team. Firehouse Subs also boasts an affordable average initial investment of approximately $350,000 for a single restaurant, depending on the real estate selected. We’re currently seeking qualified operators in targeted expansion territories including Northern California, Seattle, Northern Ohio, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, among others.
For more information on franchising with Firehouse Subs, visit firehousesubsfranchising.com.