Alex Gerzon, George Heos, and Richard Jodoin banded together to launch a U.S.-based sub-style sandwich chain called Firehouse Subs in Canada. “When you put the three of us together in terms of the expertise we bring to the table and our knowledge of the Canadian marketplace, it was a perfect fit for everybody,” says Gerzon, who with his two colleagues owns OnFire Restaurants Inc., the Canadian area developer of the U.S. brand.
It was “love at first bite” when the trio tasted their first piping-hot steamed Firehouse sandwich. It didn’t take long for them to sign an area representative agreement with Firehouse Subs, and they opened their first corporate restaurant last October in Oshawa, Ontario. They are now in the midst of launching six to eight new franchise locations, which they expect to have up and running by the end of this year.
While Firehouse Subs is not yet a household name in Canada, it’s a much-loved brand in the U.S., with more than 900 locations in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Gerzon spends most of his time at the corporate restaurant. He also helps with the midday and evening rush while also meeting with prospective franchisees.
“I spend a lot of time recruiting franchisees. I feel the best thing we can do from a franchising standpoint is to run an amazing restaurant. The prospective franchisee will walk in here and be blown away by the amazing food we serve, the great service, and what the brand stands for,” he says.
Heos, the real estate and construction whiz at the company, spends a large chunk of his time travelling across the province as he leverages his network of real estate brokers to find locations for new restaurants.
Jodoin, manages the accounting, marketing and supply chain of the business. This sometimes means adapting the U.S. marketing model to the Canadian marketplace, and then coordinating the marketing push with all franchisees. Jodoin also manages the brand’s impressive charitable arm in Canada – the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which actively raises money for first responders and first responder organizations. To date, the Oshawa restaurant has raised $10,000 for the Foundation for a junior firefighter camp.
As they work in sync, Jodoin, Heos, and Gerzon are perfectly positioned to bring the Firehouse brand to Canada, and they intend to do so at a steady clip. The plan is to open about 10 restaurants annually, working up to 80 to 90 units across Ontario before branching out into other provinces.
All three are passionate about their new business venture and positively euphoric over the mouthwatering sub-style sandwiches they sell. “We’re doing something brand new that’s not in the Canadian marketplace, so that’s very rewarding,” says Heos. “It’s a great feeling when you drive by a site and know that you’ve built that restaurant.”
Adapted from the September/October issue of FranchiseCanada. Check out the current issue of FranchiseCanada, on newsstands now, or you can order your subscription by calling 1-800-665-4232 ext. 224.