In the last 40 years, Jersey Mike’s CEO has seen the chain go from millions of dollars in debt to 1,000 locations — and he says the growth is just beginning.
Peter Cancro bought the first Jersey Mike’s at the age of 17, as a high-school senior who had spent previous summers working at the Point Pleasant, New Jersey sandwich shop. As Cancro wrote in the New York Times, he went door to door in 1975 to see if neighbours would help him raise money to buy the store.
Since then, Cancro says that not much has changed at the shop, reports QSR Magazine. While the core of sandwiches may have stayed the same, the company is today in the middle of a growth spurt that is making Jersey Mike’s one of the fastest-growing restaurant concepts in the US.
In Cancro’s 40 years of leadership, he says his lowest point as CEO came in the early 1990s.
Jersey Mike’s began franchising in 1987. For about four years, the chain experienced explosive growth. Then, in 1991, business finally hit a brick wall.
“I didn’t declare bankruptcy, but I was negative $2 million to $5 million,” Cancro told QSR. “That’s when I buttoned the chinstrap. I visited every single owner.”
Slowly, the company rebuilt its business — all under Cancro’s leadership.
“We went back to basics. We honed the business model to ensure profitability of our stores,” Hoyt Jones, the president of Jersey Mike’s franchise systems, told Business Insider. “We also went after more franchisees with cash reserves. By making existing franchisees as strong as possible, we were poised for growth once things started to turn around.”
In 2011, the chain had 507 locations. Four years later, that number has nearly doubled, with about 1,000 sandwich shops across the US.
Next year, Cancro says the company will open 250 new stores, with plans to begin exploring international expansion. By 2019, the company wants to have 2,000 locations.
Still, Jersey Mike’s executives don’t want to repeat the devastation of the early 90s. The company is focused on working with experienced franchisees from its own and other brands, with half of the 155 locations the company opened in 2014 owned by existing franchisees.
“It’s not just about getting bigger. We want every store to do well,” Cancro told QSR. “So it’s not about numbers. We want quality growth.”
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