Pickle Bucket

Why I Bought My Franchise: Ken Jones, Firehouse Subs

Jones was tired of driving towns away just for his favorite sandwich from Firehouse. So, he decided to open his own location.

After just one sub, Ken Jones was hooked on Firehouse Subs

Tired of driving back and forth to Greensboro, North Carolina for his favorite food, Jones decided it was time to bring Firehouse Subs to his hometown of Danville, Virginia. And, as a career firefighter and captain himself, Jones found his values aligned with the sandwich brand founded by fellow firefighters. Jones opened his Firehouse Subs in March of 2018 with his son KJ. Together, the two give back to Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation and have hosted various events to make a positive impact in their community.

1851 spoke with Jones to hear more about his journey into entrepreneurship with Firehouse Subs, and ultimately what made him decide to buy.

1851 Franchise: Tell us a bit about your background.

Ken Jones: I’ve been with the Danville Fire Department for 31 years now, and I’ve since been promoted to captain. The schedule that we work is on 14-hour shifts, 10 days a month. That’s given me a lot of time to explore other things. I opened a gym and I’ve been training NFL players in Danville.

I’d never been to a Firehouse, but we stopped in one to get something to eat when we were training in Norfolk Southern. I got the hero sub and from that point I was absolutely hooked. From then on, I would get on my Harley and drive all the way to Greensboro just for a sandwich. I came back to Danville and said we need a Firehouse Subs here. I got tired of driving to get subs, so I opened my own store.

1851: How did you get interested in franchising?

Jones: I was really attracted to it after getting to know the owners. It’s not just a business to them, it’s more like they want you to be a part of the family. That’s what firefighting is like. And because the owners, Chris and Robin, are firefighters themselves, they make sure to carry that familial culture throughout the brand. They want you to believe you can do this, and if you can’t, they’re going to let you know. After going to discovery day and talking with them, I knew I wanted to be a part of this franchise. 

1851: Why was this brand a better fit than other brands in the segment? 

Jones: Once you look at different brands and startup fees and things like that, Firehouse was the easiest to walk into. I knew this would be something I could embrace. It’s a strong brand, and it wants to give back to the community. We’ve given 93,000 meals to first responders since the start of the pandemic. 

We want to make sure we take care of everyone, one of the first things I initiated was giving free drinks to any first responders. It’s a nice way to honor them.

1851: Describe the moment you knew you wanted to buy the franchise. What made you buy?

Jones: The first time I walked into the place and had my first hero sub. That sub changed everything for me. 

1851: Walk us through your journey as a franchisee candidate with the brand. What happened between your first inquiry and opening your first location?

Jones: I went on the website, sent an email and connected with corporate pretty quickly. The first initial conversation was like an interview. I explained my passion for the product and the service. In my line of work, customer service is one of the most important things. They want to make sure you’re a good fit. They don’t push franchises on people, they don’t want people to get into something they’re not ready for. Now looking back on it, I'm so glad I had that kind of support. They even chose the location. In Danville, I had two location strip malls that were looking for restaurants. They find the best location for you. You actually have the help of Firehouse behind you guiding you through the process. So, that became an easy part of it. 

Mike, my area representative (AR), came down and looked and did the studies and knew the traffic flow would be great for the location. They really made that part easy and productive for me. If you’re small and haven’t run a business, make sure that the franchise has every part of the real estate process in the structure. 

1851: Did you do a discovery day? How did that go?

Jones: My first day of discovery, I immediately clicked with my AR. I think that was important. They bring you into the restaurant and let you know what they’re going to expect from you. 

1851: What advice would you give to a franchisor who is hoping to get more franchisees to sign on?

Jones: I’m really big on open communication. Make sure you have that communication with the AR and know what’s going on in the community. My AR is continuing to make sure that information is given to me to pay attention to what’s developing in your area, and that’s something I’ve really appreciated.