By Bob Coleman
Editor, Coleman Report
We spoke with Chris Eby, Manager of Franchise Development, Firehouse Subs, at the Boefly Franchise Lending Spotlight Conference this week. He gave us an update on how Firehouse Subs is doing and how small business financing could help grow the brand.
Bob Coleman: We’re at the Franchise Lending Spotlight Conference in Irvine. Chris Eby, a franchise of Firehouse Subs. Tell us what Firehouse Subs is; what’s the concept?
Chris Eby: We’re a sub chain; we’ve been around 19 years.
Bob: Regional, national?
Chris: We’re a nationwide company. We’re up to 639 locations, in 36 states and Puerto Rico. And the reason we’re here is to help . . . we’re looking for lenders to partner with us to help us with our development.
Bob: We cover a lot of the crises in Small Business funding; crises of capital access to Main Street. Are you experiencing that with creating franchises?
Chris: You know, we’re really not. I think we do a good job on the front end, qualifying the candidates, setting their expectations. And by the time they get to the lending process I think it’s pretty simplistic for them.
Bob: How much do you work with their lenders; to help the franchisees . . .?
Chris: Well this is a good example of what we do with the lenders. We really give them an idea of who we are, what we’re all about, the culture of the company; and I think that gives them great insight and it really shows that the risk is reduced with a company like Firehouse Subs.
Bob: You’re in a group of lenders. What do you want to tell them about your concept, about the economy, about your outlook? How positive are you for 2013?
Chris: You know, what I really want to tell the lenders today is the fact that in 19 years we’ve been in the marketplace we’ve never had any litigation with our Franchisors.
Bob: That’s very important.
Chris: Absolutely. We’re a privately owned company; we’ve been debt free for about 12 years. So as the company stands, we’re very solid and a great partner to work with.
Bob: How much to you expect to grow the next couple of years?
Chris: This year we expect to open 145 locations – I think we’ve opened about 67 here today. Our long-term goal is to hit about 2,000 locations by the year 2020; we’re at 639 now, so we’re getting close.
Bob: I gotta love your branding; you’ve got to tell me about that, you were started by Firemen. Tell me about that.
Chris: Yeah, it was 2 brothers in Jacksonville, Florida, who were firemen; and their family had decades of firefighter and first-responder history; and their father was a Captain there. And they tried several different things; they were entrepreneurs; nothing really stuck. But they always had a passion for food, and they decided to start this franchise
Bob: ‘Cause Firefighters love food
Chris: Absolutely, and they started with an instant success, and we’ve grown like gangbusters and we’ve grown ever since.
Bob: Chris, thank you very much.
Chris: Thank you Bob.