#8 on the Franchise 500: By the End of 2020, Jersey Mike's Will Hit $2 Billion in Sales

The #8 company on our Franchise 500 list has seen explosive growth from existing franchisees opening new locations.

This story appears in the January 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Over the past decade, Jersey Mike's has nearly quadrupled its total store count, and since 2015, 80 percent of that growth comes from existing franchisees opening new stores. "That's telling you two things," says Mike Manzo, the company's COO. "One, the franchisees are happy, and two, they're profitable enough to be investing back into their brand."

Courtesy of Jersey Mike's

The stats are a point of pride, but they're especially impressive given Jersey Mike's unlikely trajectory. The sub shop was founded as a single location on the Jersey shore in 1956, and 15 years later, the third owner, Victor Merlo, sold it to a 17-year-old counter worker, Peter Cancro, who is still CEO today. Manzo worked alongside Cancro in the original store, and while the two are no longer kids, they continue the push to reach new, often young customers.

Related: After Nearly Going Bankrupt, How Franchise Jersey Mike's Fought Back and Won

This year, Jersey Mike's updated its mobile app to allow remote ordering and Apple Pay. To promote it, the company ran a 16-stop tour of college campuses, using pop-up shops to hand out free subs to students who downloaded the app.

The promotion ties into a deeply held company principle: "We give to give." Nine years ago, Jersey Mike's dubbed March the "month of giving," and it began inviting customers to donate to a local charity partner. On the last Wednesday of the month, each franchisee kicks in 100 percent of the day's sales, and many employees even volunteer their paychecks. "Last year, we raised more than $7 million," says Manzo. "And this year, we're looking to go over $8 million."

By the end of 2020, Jersey Mike's expects to have nearly 2,000 restaurants and $2 billion in system-wide sales. It all goes to show: Sometimes the most reliable growth comes from the most humble roots.

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