America’s fastest growing restaurant chain is the most underrated

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There’s no shortage of places to get a perfectly acceptable sandwich. You can always go to your neighborhood convenience store for a chicken salad sandwichBring together a simple recipe of your own at home, or rely on one of the many sub-restaurant chains across the country. If you tend to do the latter, forget it. Subways, At Jimmy John’sand even the Quiznos world, because a new chain is about to become the top dog in the sub-sandwich wars, and rightly so. It’s time for Jersey Mike to shine.

QSR Magazine Reports that Jersey Mike’s is the fastest growing number one chain in America: from 2020 to 2021, 246 stores were added across the country, bringing the total number of locations to 2,100, and the chain generated more than $2.2 billion in sales, a huge jump from $1.5 billion in sales in 2020. The Jersey Mike star is on the rise, and while he still has a ways to go before catching up Subway’s 37,000 locations, its exponential growth proves how far it’s come from humble beginnings to earn a place among the nation’s top sandwich brands.

A Brief History of Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Mike’s started as a single store called Mike’s Subs in 1956. According to Jersey Mike’s own recollection of his story, there was actually a Mike running it, although little is known about the channel’s namesake. This first store opened in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, on the Jersey Shore, and became famous for being one of the few places where you could get what at the time was a relatively rare item: the submarine sandwich.

In 1971, Peter C, age 14anchoro (current CEO of Jersey Mike) started working behind the counter at Mike’s Subs, and at the age of 17 bought the shop. While Canchoro opened a few more local stores as Mike’s Subs, it wasn’t until 1987 that he rebranded the business as Jersey Mike’s and began franchising across the country.

Overwritten reports that the recession of the early 1990s led to layoffs and near bankruptcy just as the chain was about to take off. This slowed the progress of the leap, causing the company to lose the momentum that brands like Subway and Jimmy John’s were building around the same time. Funnily enough, the pandemic is when Jersey Mike really took the lead. According to trade publication Restaurant Business, only three of the top 10 sandwich chains saw sales growth in 2020: Firehouse Subs and Arby’s saw minimal growth, at 0.9% and 8.5%, respectively. Jersey Mike’s sales increased 19.6% and sales have been steadily increasing ever since.

Why Jersey Mike’s reigns supreme

Behind all those impressive numbers is a devoted fandom and the fact that Jersey Mike’s just makes a damn good classic sub. Yes, the menu has followed innovations in the sandwich industry, offering a number of hot and cold subs (like The Canchoro Special with provolone, roast beef and pepperoni) which can be customized any way with vegetables and sauces. But what sets the sandwiches apart is a crisp freshness, underscored by ordering a “Mike’s Way” sandwich, which includes onions, lettuce, tomatoes, red wine vinegar, mixed oil olive oil, oregano and salt.

This love for the brand was not only co-signed by myself and my colleague Angela L. Pagán, but also by heavy hitters like J. Lo, in the music video for her 2018 song. “Dinero” with Cardi B and DJ Khaled, Jennifer Lopez is elegantly draped at the bottom of a staircase in her finest crystals and fur eat a clearly marked Jersey Mike meal. Most recently, Jersey Mike’s won the top spot in the podcast Doughboys‘Tournament of Chompions: Hero’s Journey: Sub-Optimal, a parenthesis-like confrontation to determine which sandwich substring is better. (Jersey Mike beat Arby and Capriotti in the last round.)

According to the entrepreneur, Jersey Mike’s also continues to be one of the most attractive fast food jobs. Assistant managers, for example, receive a percentage of the store’s profits, and the chain encourages customers to tip, raising the rate for hourly workers. In 2021, 85% of the company’s franchise growth came from within, as employees who had previously worked for the company walked out on their own.

If you haven’t boarded Jersey Mike’s yet, now is the time to try it. And if you haven’t tried it yet because there isn’t a place near you, don’t worry. With the growth of this chain, it’s only a matter of time before you too can order a Mike’s Way Sub.

About Vivian J. Smith

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