1851 lists leading sandwich franchises with 50-plus locations.
Today, there’s no shortage of sandwich franchises for entrepreneurs to choose from. As the quick-service restaurant industry continues to move toward convenience and nutrition, delicatessens are finding new ways to stand out among their competition. 1851 has listed 10 of the most popular sandwich franchises that have seen success with their signature offerings.
Unit Count: 100+ locations
Investment range: $182,200 - $632,000
Cousins Bill Specht and James Sheppard started Cousins Subs in 1972. Born in New Jersey, they were big fans of submarine sandwiches, and decided to bring a better sub to their new home after settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2016, Cousins Subs went through a major brand overhaul and expanded into other areas. There are now more than 100 locations in Wisconsin and Arizona, with locations in Illinois currently in development.
Which Wich Superior Sandwiches
Unit Count: 430+ locations
Investment range: $190,500 - $495,250
Jeff Sinelli, Founder and Chief Vibe Officer of Which Wich, credits his mother when asked how he came up with the idea for the fast-casual sandwich concept. “My mom used to pack my lunch and wrote my name on a brown bag before sticking it in the refrigerator,” said Sinelli. Originating in Dallas, Texas, Which Wich has been “brown baggin’ it” since 2003 and began franchising in 2005. Now with more than 430 locations in 36 states and 10 countries, the franchise is most famous for the way customers place orders. With red Sharpies, customers select from ten ingredient categories including bread, meat, cheese and vegetable option, on pre-printed sandwich bag menus to create their perfect sandwich.
Unit Count: 250+ locations
Investment range: $274,000 - $508,700
Togo’s started in 1968 near San Jose State University in California. The tiny sandwich shop hung a sign on it’s front door that simply read “sandwiches - to go.” When university student Mike Cobler discovered the simple sub shop was for sale in 1971, he bought it and began franchising 1977. The iconic West Coast sandwich shop has a strong foothold in California and its surrounding states. The core of Togo’s menu features 19 subs, six salads, four veggie sandwiches and a selection of soups that changes daily. Any sub can be ordered without bread and be served up as a salad with romaine lettuce or in a tortilla wrap.
Unit Count: 2,700+ locations
Investment range: $329,500 - $557,500
Jimmy John's has been doing things differently than its competitors since 1983. James Liautaud founded Jimmy John’s in Charleston, Illinois when he was 19 years old. With used equipment, a refrigerator, one meat slicer, a freezer and an oven, “Jimmy” John Liautaud started his business without even a posted menu or an outdoor sign. Now with more than 2,700 locations, Jimmy John’s is still doing things differently. The sandwich franchise chain does not offer oven-baked sandwiches and only serves one cheese (provolone) to its customers. However, Jimmy John’s delivers its subs, a rarity among sandwich chains, with “freaky fast” speed.
Unit Count: 1,050+ locations
Investment range: $92,255 - $824,846
Firehouse Subs was founded in 1994 by former firefighters and brothers Robin and Chris Sorensen in Jacksonville, Florida. The fast-casual sandwich franchise features a firefighting menu theme, including sub names like the Engineer and Firehouse Hero. The sandwich brand is known for donating a portion of every purchase to the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation in an effort to support first responders in the communities where the chain has a presence. The foundation has granted over $35 million in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Canada to help support hometown heroes.
Unit Count: 1,500+ locations
Investment range: $178,523 - $746,342
In 1956, Mike’s sandwich shop started serving sandwiches in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. In 1972, 14-year-old Peter Cancro started working at the small deli, and when it went up for sale three years later, he and a friend managed to pull together $125,000 to buy the location. By 1978, Cancro and his partner had revamped their sandwich concept and were ready to begin franchising. Today, Jersey Mike’s has 1,500 locations across the U.S. and is known for its authentic New Jersey subs – served “Mike's Way” with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, oil, vinegar and spices.
Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop
Unit Count: 50+ locations
Investment range: $191,014 - $381,535
Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop got its start back in 1988 when Kevin and Beth Schippers opened their first location in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The sandwich franchise took a unique approach when naming its subs, with menu items called Narmer, Bornk, Girf, Comet Morehouse and Quatro. The sandwich names are all based on characters from stories that Kevin’s father used to tell his 10 children while they were growing up: The Adventures of Erbert and Gerbert Herbert. In honor of Kevin’s father, each sandwich on the menu has its own write-up that relates back to the original childhood story.
Unit Count: 350+ locations
Investment range: $503,814 - $787,984
Schlotzsky’s got its start in Austin, Texas in 1971 with a single location and a single sandwich, The Original. While The Original is still its most famous sandwich, the franchise now serves a much wider menu to customers at more than 350 locations in 35 states. Schlotzsky’s offers a variety of fresh-baked breads, hot sandwiches, artisan flatbreads, specialty pizzas, toasted wraps, salads and gourmet soups. Currently owned by Focus Brands, an affiliate of Roark Capital Group, Schlotzsky’s serves feature products such as Cinnabon and Carvel ice cream in many of its locations.
Unit Count: 500+ locations
Investment range: $564,050 - $782,700
In 1977, Peter Hastings started Potbelly Sandwich Shop in Chicago in a space that was previously an antique store. The décor of the first location used many items from the antique store, including a potbelly stove that gave the sandwich shop its name. Bryant Keil purchased the restaurant in 1997 and grew the brand into a chain that now has more than 500 locations in the U.S., Canada, the UK and the United Arab Emirates. Right now, only 54 of those locations are franchises; the rest are company-owned. Unique to the fast-casual sandwich shop segment, Potbelly will occasionally host live music featuring local musicians in its various locations.
D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches
Unit Count: 200+ locations
Investment range: $390,454 - $555,353
D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches began in 1967 when Brian J. McLaughlin and Jay Howland opened up Ma Riva’s Sub Shop in Dedham, Massachusetts. The two partners changed the name to Angelo Sub Shop and later settled on D’Angelo around 1978. The D’Angelo menu includes nearly 40 different subs and sandwiches, five rice and grain bowls, salads, wraps and soups. Unlike many of its competitors, D’Angelo’s offers delivery in addition to dine-in and carry-out. In 2015, the sandwich franchise, which works closely with The Jimmy Fund, reached a major milestone by raising over $1 million to support the cancer research institute.