It’s been quite a few years since Greg or I had Firehouse Subs, so when the opportunity to not only go and try them out but to meet co-founder Robin Sorenson, came up, I quickly signed us up. Myself, two other bloggers, and a rep from WPXI got to sample subs, the Coca-Cola Freestyle Machine, and hear about what makes Firehouse Subs different from other sandwich places. The night began with a “Welcome to Firehouse!” by all the employees–one of the touches that sets them apart, adhering to one of their three mission statement credos–heartfelt service. Robin and his brother (and co-founder) Chris learned about service watching their parents as they grew up. (I hope my kids are learning this!) Our first stop was to quench our thirst at the Coca-Cola Freestyle Machine, selecting from the 120+ options it has to offer. (The technology behind this is really cool–there is no syrup involved, it’s incredible how one machine can offer so much.) We even got to hear about the signature Cherry Limeaid (if you get it, be sure to add in limes, that’s the way you are supposed to enjoy it) from Robin’s brother-in-law (it was clear from the start that the business is about family and balance–win!). I enjoyed this drink, but do hope they release a light or diet version–my non-sugar body was quite hyped up for a few hours after.
(In case you’re interested, I pulled together my first ever Storify story of the tweets so you can see even more photos and quotes from the night–check it out here!) Once we got settled in, Robin walked us through an evening of stories about the restaurant’s success. From their start in Jacksonville, Florida in 1994 to over 600 stores in 35 states (and Puerto Rico), they clearly have done something right. Robin said it over and over–they “have the right people” and that is what makes the high volume stores do what they do. It’s not just about sales, it’s about good food. Robin and his brother Chris are foodies–they are involved in the meat selection, test kitchen trials, and even talking to the companies who make their meat or bread. Portions are where they are different. The amount of meat on a Firehouse Sub is enough to satisfy a hard-working firefighter (or a hungry Greg, lemme tell you, that guy was one happy man!). This goes back to their mission statement credo: hearty and flavorful food.
Robin, down to earth, funny, and great to listen to.
While I’ve had Firehouse Subs before, I completely forgot how amazing they were. The taste. The steam. And the bread. The bread is SO SOFT and yet crispy on the outside. The pickles (from the Bronx). Yum. Captain Sorenson’s Hot Sauce. Yes. The flavors of each sandwich aren’t covered up by anything–if there’s mayo, lettuce, ham, and cheese on a sub, you can taste it all. Yup. Deliciousness. My favorite was the New York Steamer and Greg’s was the #1 selling Hook and Ladder. I mean, just look at them.
I know, I’ve made you hungry. Just hang tight, friends. I’ll help feed your fire soon enough. And finally, Robin talked about the Firehouse Foundation (on Twitter @savinglives) dedicated to the third credo, public safety support. The Foundation helps police and firemen in addition to schools (to get AED’s). It provides disaster relief (food for public safety folks during disasters). The money comes from the customers (through pickle bucket sales or rounding up their checks), vendors, employees, and matches from Robin and Chris. (Here’s more on how you can get Fully Involved!) The dedication Robin has to this company is clearly one of the reasons it is great. He is involved in the decisions from what napkins are bought to who is hired to own a franchise. The company has stuck to basic philosophies that work, and from what I can tell, it sure is working. Before I went to the event, I checked out their Facebook and Twitter and am quite impressed with their connections with customers. They’re even on Instagram and YouTube! Worth checking out if you are a social media junkie like me.
Event attendees with Robin
When we left, our hands were too full to ring the Thank You bell, but I wish we could have. You see, we were carrying our drinks, my leftovers, and goodies, some of which I am about to share with you. I’d love to hear about your experience with Firehouse Subs, and hope you get a chance to try them out if you haven’t. Before you enter this giveaway, take a peek at the photos Greg took during the event.
Thanks to the Firehouse Subs and the Zimmerman Agency for hosting this event and giveaway! It’s time to share the love.