Not many franchisees can say that Mom and Dad introduced them to a brand, but then they’re not Rob Chinsky.
The St. Louis native was just 22 years old when he first learned about the East Coast Subs brand, Penn Station.
“My parents are friends with the franchisors’ in-laws and they introduced me to Penn Station,” he said. “My mom thought it would be a good idea to visit the franchise in Cincinnati.”
The timing was perfect. Chinsky wanted to open a business but he also desired some help. That family friend financed Chinsky’s first Penn Station restaurant, giving Chinsky a welcome boost. He opened his first Penn Station franchise in 1990 in Cincinnati at the age of just 23.
Chinsky’s restaurant experience up until that point ran deep. He started working in restaurants at the age of 15 and later earned his Associate degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from St. Louis Community College - Forest Park. He had two jobs before opening his first Penn Station franchise: working first at his cousin’s deli and catering company, then at another cousin’s full-size, sit-down restaurant.
“Starting out so young I did not have the experience to go out completely on my own, but with the help of a franchise I felt confident I could do it,” he said, adding that he did not explore any other franchise opportunities once he found the perfect match with Penn Station. “This was a unique situation and opportunity for me and I took it. Given my relationship with CEO Jeff Osterfeld’s father-in-law and his willingness to help me, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Mickey’s business acumen, his guidance and direction at such an early stage of my career and his access to capital made it wonderful for me. I was working my tail off and he was providing all the above. It was truly a great partnership that benefitted us both.”
This past July 5 marked Chinsky’s 29-year anniversary with the brand and he opened his 18th location in March 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He enjoys being a multi-unit owner.
“Having multiple units gives us the flexibility for all stores to help each other and grow,” he said. “All 18 locations are within one hour of each other and that has been a big plus over the years. We all work as a team.”
So why has everything worked out so well with Chinsky and the Penn Station brand?
“I feel that, after 29 years, I am a team player and am willing to help others in the system when needed,” he said. Craig Dunaway, President of Penn Station, echoed Chinsky’s comments: “Rob is well-respected in the system and is constantly helping offer advice and counsel to others in the system. He’s been franchisee of the year, served as president of our Franchise Advisory Council and never turns down an opportunity to assist someone who seeks his support.”
For Chinsky, being a successful franchise owner goes beyond the numbers and having a profitable restaurant.
“It’s also about building a culture that people want to work within and putting efficient systems in place and continuing to grow every day,” he said. “Many things make up this list.”
Even after 29 years with the brand, Chinsky feels he still learns every day and continues to work on being successful. He considers himself very lucky that a family friend believed in him so many years ago. His goal today is to continue to improve his business and, since he did just open his 18th restaurant in March, maybe take things just a little bit slower. He’s certainly earned it.
“I would have never dreamed of where I am today in this business,” he said.
The startup costs for a Penn Station franchise range from $290,984 to $594,478. The franchise fee is $25,000. To learn more about franchising with Penn Station, visit https://www.penn-station.com/franchise/.