How Firehouse Subs Catering Keeps Quality Higher During Major Growth: A Q&A with Risa Rappaport
- Meredith Bethune
- 3 Min Read
This Florida-based sandwich chain is quickly gaining an outstanding reputation with sandwich lovers nationwide. Menu items like the Hook & Ladder sub come piled high with top-quality ingredients like smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, Monterey Jack cheese– and are always served with a smile. Customer accolades keep on coming and Business Insider recently named it one of the best fast-food chains in the country.
Chris and Robin Sorensen, brothers and former firefighters, founded Firehouse Subs in 1994. Firefighting is a profession known for enthusiastic eating and that same passion permeates every Firehouse Subs location, where the ingredients are always fresh and flavorful, the portions are large, and the price is right.
It’s no wonder, then, that Firehouse Subs has expanded quickly, now serving sandwiches from over 1044 restaurants across the country. New locations have been opening in the United States, Canada, and even Mexico. So how do they keep up with the demand? We spoke with Risa Rappaport, Director of Catering, about how Firehouse Subs catering keeps turning out quality subs during this time of major expansion.
Finding success in the restaurant industry is notoriously challenging, but selling sandwiches must be particularly competitive. What’s the key to the success of Firehouse Subs?
There are two major ingredients. First, we have the finest quality. Our meats are premium, and we couple that with heartfelt service. You can’t get a better quality sub, and it’s always delivered with wonderful service.
What distinguishes Firehouse Subs is really the quality of our food, and I just can’t talk enough about that. But every one of our restaurants also really has this unique, heartfelt service. It’s that winning combination of a successful restaurant. If you go ahead and deliver that off-premise, you can’t have a better-catered event; you can’t have a better caterer than that.
Speaking of catering, what role does it play in the business for Firehouse Subs?
Our guests have different needs and their dining habits have changed. We recognize that we’ve
got to focus on off-premise, so catering is certainly a priority. Off-premise dining is so important to top line sales that we’ve changed our paradigm over the last couple of years.
Is it a challenge for Firehouse Subs catering to expand operations without sacrificing quality?
I really do think that everything we do in the restaurant industry is a challenge. But what’s great about us here at Firehouse Subs catering is that we’ve got excellent systems. We’ve got a food standards manual, and we encourage everyone to follow it. It’s been in place for at least ten years, so the direction is very clear.
We use the same quality ingredients for in-house dining as we do for off-premise or catered dining. The bread is the same, the quality meats are the same, and the cheeses are the same. Our guests dining off-premise are getting the same quality as they would in the restaurant.
We’ve got a great system, and we’ve have great infrastructure. We’ve got representatives all over the country who work with the franchisees, and we’ve got business partners who also work out in the field. So there are lots of eyes on the product.
What kind of advice do you have for restaurants or food businesses looking to expand their catering operations?
I really do believe that talking to your guests who walk into your restaurant is the best way. You can have that face-to- face with folks who already come into your establishment and let them know that they can get that same great food outside your four walls.
Do you have any big plans for Firehouse Subs catering for the future?
We’re very fortunate to have a great culinary wizard, Jay Noah, on staff. He’s recently joined our team. And he and I have partnered to see what else we can do to broaden our offerings. We’re also doing some tests. We’re looking at some of our offerings and some of our sandwich choices.
Do you have a favorite menu item?
My favorite sub is our ham and turkey. In the restaurant that’s known as our Hook & Ladder, but outside the restaurant it’s known as our ham and turkey. And with our toasted bread, that sandwich is phenomenal. But I really do prefer our catered ham and turkey sub.
To place a catering order at a Firehouse Subs near you