The New Frontier of Nontraditional Markets: Firehouse Subs Adapts to New Spaces

Firehouse Subs isn’t afraid to tap into non-traditional franchise opportunities. As of this moment, the Jacksonville, FL- based chain has stores in five college campuses, four airports, and a hospital. And while these locations are generally smaller (600-800 sq. ft.) than their typical stores (1,400-2,500 sq. ft.), they’ve allowed tremendous flexibility for the growing sandwich brand. To adapt to these smaller spaces, dining areas are eliminated and menus are reduced to feature only top-selling items. But in the end, it’s a wise move.

Running a leaner operation allows the brand to reach new customers in new spaces, building awareness and loyalty, while minimizing waste. Senior manager of non-traditional franchise opportunities Steve LaBostrie remarks, “There’s a growing need for branded restaurants, especially on college campuses,” and he also knows that the added visibility of Firehouse Subs is a key strategy in boosting sales across the board, noting, “What we’ve found in airports is we’re appealing to existing customers as well as people who’ve never heard of us before. Then when they get home, they look for the closest Firehouse Subs to them.”

Each of the smaller, non-traditional locations is licensed and typically run by foodservice contractors, who are all trained by Firehouse Subs employees. This exciting and innovative business model is set to support the company’s growth in the coming years. While there are plans to continue building traditional stores, the future looks especially bright for non-traditional franchise opportunities from Firehouse Subs, with hopes to expand into more colleges, healthcare facilities, and airports, as well as casinos and travel plazas.

The push for leaner and more flexible operations has never been greater, since the coronavirus pandemic. The face of food service is quickly changing, and it’s brands like Firehouse Subs that are at the forefront of the franchise revolution. Finding ways to stay true to the ethos of the brand, while nudging into non-traditional franchises like airports, campuses, and hospitals is the new name of the game. Things like kiosks, concession stands, and micro-stores give customers the familiarity they crave while reducing overhead on the other side of the counter.

Many of Firehouse Sub’s non-traditional locations carry just one size of sub, as compared to the three size options of their larger stores. But customers know that they can still count on the hottest selling items on the menu, fresh and ready to go when, and where, they want. The slimmer business model has been beneficial for everyone. “We need to run these operations lean so they’re more efficient, profitable, and offer the best guest experience possible,” notes LaBostrie.

In the future, we may all start to see more of this trend take over the foodservice sphere, led by the boldest and most adaptable brands who aren’t afraid to think outside the box...or the traditional restaurant, as it were. Customers will always value convenience, especially when it’s delivered by a company they know and trust. And by reaching into nontraditional venues, brands like Firehouse Subs are building that trust one college student, one ER nurse, one hungry traveler at a time.


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