While John Doyle didn’t plan on getting into the franchising world straight out of college, fate had a different idea in mind. After receiving an MBA from Xavier University, Doyle began looking for his next big move. One day, his childhood friend and Penn Station owner Jeff Osterfeld gave him a call to ask for a little help at his fledgling restaurant in Cincinnati.
“The original idea was just to help out for a week after Jeff’s manager quit,” Doyle said. “In fact, I was still in the middle of interviewing for jobs when he called. I thought it was going to be temporary, but after two weeks Jeff asked if I’d be interested in buying the business. We worked out a deal and I haven’t looked back since. I currently own nine Penn Station locations in the greater Cincinnati area.”
Founded by Osterfeld in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1985, Penn Station serves a variety of grilled and cold deli sandwiches and wraps made to order with high-quality name brand ingredients on freshly baked bread. The menu also includes fresh-cut fries, hand-squeezed lemonade made throughout the day and chocolate chunk cookies baked in-house. The brand is not only known for its craveable menu, but for industry-leading franchisee longevity.
Doyle truly started on the ground floor, joining Penn Station as one of the three original franchisees in April 1988, along with Osterfeld’s brother and a neighbor. The close-knit group provided Doyle with a trusted and loyal network of like-minded individuals in his hometown.
“The company became such a good fit because we were already so close,” said Doyle. “Right off the bat, we were all on the same page.”
Of course, in the beginning, learning opportunities abounded. Still, Doyle claimed that the youthful drive of the three novices allowed them to endure and keep them enthusiastic. Quitting simply wasn’t an option. Even though the company couldn’t afford to advertise much in the early days, the brand gained a devoted following around Cincinnati through pure word of mouth. Luckily, as the business picked up and the number of locations grew, Penn Station became a household name in the Cincinnati area and beyond.
“It’s been so incredible watching the company grow over the past 30 years,” Doyle said. “I remember sitting around the dining room table with Jeff and the two other franchisees signing the agreement. I never imagined the company would be where it is today.”
“We are committed to providing loyal franchisees like John Doyle the tools that are necessary for success,” said Penn Station President Craig Dunaway. “John has taken those tools, expanded them to fit his own unique circumstances, and this, in part, has lead to what is now an extraordinarily successful concept that has grown to over 310 restaurants throughout 15 states. John is a great ambassador for the brand. He was selected as the 2019 Franchisee of the Year for Penn Station, and this honor was truly earned."
After 30 years in the area, Doyle and Penn Station has become an essential part of the community. Whether it be through donating to community fundraisers or sponsoring hundreds of baseball games, Doyle has found a way to contribute in any way he can.
“Cincinnati is one of the main markets that participates in Penn Station’s Athlete of the Year Program,” said Doyle. “We’ve had some great success finding local high school athletes to highlight each month. At the end of each year, we choose one athlete and donate $10,000 toward their tuition.”
Doyle is still open to the idea of future franchise expansion. Approaching double-digit franchise ownership, Doyle opened his ninth Penn Station location in Monroe, Ohio just this past May.
“I feel very lucky to have been involved with such a successful and quality company since the very beginning,” said Doyle. “It’s a good sign that, after all of this time, I am still excited about what the future holds.