Firehouse Subs sold for $1 billion to Burger King, Popeyes owner

Restaurant Brands International, which also owns Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons, announced the all-cash plan to buy Firehouse Subs Monday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Firehouse Subs, the Jacksonville-based restaurant chain founded by Jacksonville firefighters more than 25 years ago, is set to be acquired by Restaurant Brands International Inc. in a $1 billion deal.

Restaurant Brands International, which also owns Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons, announced the all-cash plan to buy Firehouse Subs Monday morning.

“Firehouse Subs is a special brand with a talented team, impressive culture and community focus that resonates with guests and closely aligns with our core values at RBI,” said José Cil, Chief Executive Officer of RBI, headquartered in Toronto, Canada. “We see tremendous potential to accelerate U.S. and international growth at Firehouse Subs with RBI’s development expertise, global franchisee network and digital capabilities.”

Don Fox, Firehouse Subs CEO said, “At Firehouse Subs we are united in our commitment to and passion for hearty and flavorful food, heartfelt service, and public safety. Joining the RBI family of brands provides an energizing opportunity to assist more communities, not only across America and Canada, but around the globe. The donations we generate for our Foundation through our restaurants means changing and saving lives, so we can’t wait to accelerate our journey at home and around the world.”

Chris Sorensen and Robin Sorensen were Jacksonville firefighters, just like their dad, when they opened their first Firehouse Subs location at Crown Plaza in suburban Jacksonville in 1994. 

The chain, known for its tasty subs and firehouse-decorated restaurants, now has nearly 1,200 locations in 46 states, including about 170 in Florida. In a 2016 interview with CNBC, Robin Sorensen said he and his brother had less than $100 in their checking accounts when they opened their first restaurant.

They started the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation in 2005 to provide funding, equipment and education for first responders. 

“We chose RBI because they believe in and are committed to honoring things that are important to us, which are to protect the brand and continue its legacy, to take care of our nearly 800 local employees, to remain headquartered in Jacksonville, and to preserve, foster, and continue the mission of Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation,” the Sorensens said in a prepared statement.

“With more than 27,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries, RBI will bring a tremendous number of resources to Firehouse Subs to help accelerate our long-held mission to sell more subs and save more lives.”

In the statement, the Sorensens described the growth of the chain and the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation:

“We don’t think we could ever truly describe the journey other than it was the ride of a lifetime. The Firehouse Subs system employs more than 15,000 family members and supports hundreds of companies and industries that impact thousands. And of course, our proudest accomplishment, Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. Thanks to your donations, such as buying pickle buckets and rounding up, we have donated 5,399 lifesaving grants to local heroes totaling more than $62.5 million.

“To all of our headquarters staff and corporate restaurant employees, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your hard work and dedication to the Firehouse Subs brand, as well as your belief and support of the mission of Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. It has been the honor of our lifetime to have worked with you. To our franchisees that invested and believed in us, we have no words. You are the reason Firehouse Subs exists.”

Saying they were proud to have been born and raised in Jacksonville and to have built the brand in their hometown, the brothers hinted at their future.

“As for the future, we will reside here and continue our legacy of giving back to this community that has supported us so much. Who knows… maybe one day we will open another restaurant. We are also excited to continue leadership roles on the board of directors for Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation,” they said in the statement.

Firehouse Subs is deemed a strong and growing player within the $30 billion Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry in the United States. It’s systemwide sales are projected to be about $1.1 billion this year.

The sandwich shop chain “is frequently rated the No. 1 brand in its QSR sandwich category for food quality. It also has one of the strongest brand-love ratings in its category — driven by its Public Safety Foundation, according to the statement. 

 Firehouse Subs will remain headquartered in Jacksonville once the sale closes, which is expected within a couple of months. The sandwich chain will continue to be managed by Fox and Vincent Burchianti, its current chief financial officer.

This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.

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