Saturated sub-sandwich market awaits Firehouse-WEB ONLY

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Firehouse Subs said yesterday it plans to open its first store in the Indianapolis area this summer, with as many as 27 more to follow within the next seven years.

But a local retail real estate broker who once owned several franchise restaurants thinks an already saturated sub-sandwich market will make it difficult for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based chain to achieve its goal.

“It’s really, really a crowded segment,” said Steve Delaney of Indianapolis-based Sitehawk Retail Real Estate. “The key will be to differentiate themselves from the other sandwich competition.”

Indeed, the competition is likely to be as hearty as Firehouse Subs’ “oversized portions,” which it says it features on its signature Hook & Ladder and New York Steamer sandwiches.

Connecticut-based Subway Restaurants has more than 80 area locations, and Denver-based Quiznos and Cincinnati-based Penn Station each have about 20. Champaign, Ill.-based Jimmy John’s has 14 and Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Blimpie has nine.

On top of that, Jersey Mike’s Subs has three area locations, and Dallas-based Wich Wich announced in November that it plans to open up to 10 locations in the next five to seven years. Its first restaurant will open soon at Meridian and 126th streets in Carmel.

“Most restaurant companies come to town and analyze the market, and feel they can do so many [stores] based on the population,” Delaney said. “That’s in theory, but with the competition, that can be very, very difficult to do.”

Veteran restaurateur Mark Adams will be responsible for selling Firehouse franchises and providing owners with marketing and operational support. Adams led operations and training in a 262-store region for McDonald’s and was a franchise owner of the burger chain. He most recently was an area supervisor for Fazoli’s Restaurants.

Brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, both former firefighters, founded Firehouse Subs in 1995. It has 366 locations in 18 states.

The company said it will employ 450 people locally if all 28 stores are built. A Firehouse spokesperson said the chain is in the final phases of securing a location in the Avon area for its first local store.

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