Pizza franchisors, meet your new competition - Jersey Mike's

| by S.A. Whitehead
Pizza franchisors, meet your new competition - Jersey Mike's

It seems there is a new player in the pizza game — one that's eyeing pizza operators willing to venture a little "out-of-the-[pizza]-box thinking," so to speak. 

Leaders at Jersey Mike's, a 1,300-plus unit sub shop based in New Jersey, said in an interview with Pizza Marketplace that they looking for franchisees with experience in the pizza segment. This idea stemmed from several existing partnerships with other pizza operators. In fact, nearly one-fifth of Jersey Mike's operators and 40 percent of its area directors have experience managing or owning a pizza-related brand.

"In addition to both having relatively easy operations to execute, they also share similarities between the cost to build and unit economics, which I understand and like," said Jersey Mike's Franchisee Bob Middleton, who has worked with larger pizza franchises, including Little Caesars, since 1998. Middleton got turned on to the sub shop brand through his pizza franchisee friends, who had success also operating Jersey Mike's units.

Although Middleton said his experience with Jersey Mike's is similar to his pizza operational experience, he won't ever connect the two types of restaurant ventures in any way. He thinks that would be damaging to all the brands involved. 

"In addition to both having relatively easy operations to execute, they also share similarities between the cost to build and unit economics, which I understand and like."     -Jersey Mike's franchisee Bob Middleton

"I keep all of my brands separate so that their respective cultures stay intact," he said. "I believe it's important not to mix people between brands and operate them as totally separate companies." 

Jersey Mike's President Hoyt Jones said the brand has found great success adapting pizza franchisees to the Jersey Mike's "way."

"We have been fortunate to have successful transitions from numerous pizza company operators, both local and franchise-driven," Jones said, explaining that many business owners seek diversity on one hand in their holdings but similar cultures on the other.

Likewise, Jones said Jersey Mike's gravitates toward "hands-on operators, who love the hospitality business.

That's evident when you ask a franchisee of both restaurant types what they most about operating a sub business or a pizza brand. As Middleton put it, it's the same two qualities, "Simplicity and unit economics. ... If you have found success in the pizza business, most likely you will find success in the sub business as well. There are more similarities than differences."

But Jones said the brand has never seriously considered adding pizza to its menu in any way. As he puts it, "We like being focused on making the best submarine sandwich in the world."

And on that note, the brand seems to know what it's doing considering that, last year, it opened more than 170 restaurants nationwide and achieved a 6 percent system-wide same-store sales increase.

Jones said he anticipates opening another 200 stores by the end of the year in the U.S., and you better believe they are checking out all the pizza operators in those new neighborhoods as well. 

Photo: Modified iStock

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Financial Management, Franchising & Growth, Operations Management, Trends / Statistics

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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