July 10, 2017
Reporter, Jacksonville Business Journal
Jacksonville-based restaurant Firehouse Subs has added a new concept to the lineup of the over 1,000 stores in operation in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. The first airport Firehouse opened this week in the Jacksonville International Airport.
Firehouse has been interested in implementing stores in non-traditional locations recently, said CEO Don Fox. Airports are typically high-performing units with lots of traffic – and good for brand awareness.
“We expect that it’s going to be a high-volume location that will exceed the usual street side line,” Fox said. “The addition of breakfast is part of that, but we think the main menu activity is going to be higher. The continuous traffic throughout the day helps.”
The airport location is about 400 square feet, much smaller than the usual Firehouse, which led to some design reshuffling. It’s also the first Firehouse to offer breakfast options: breakfast sandwiches, oatmeals and grab-and-go items that are popular in airports.
Breakfast is available at a Puerto Rico location, but this is the first store in the U.S. that is offering it.
“We’re looking to demonstrate that our product, in that setting, is appealing to the customer,” Fox said. “This one is very special to us of course because it’s our hometown, which is really a coincidence because the first opportunity we had with a host was here in our backyard. We’re looking forward in this site to further relationships with our brand and strengthen it in an airport setting.”
Fox said that negotiations are in the works to put a Firehouse in the Orlando International Airport in the fall and hopes to see more airport locations in the future.
In Jacksonville, Firehouse is one of several changes at the airport. An Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop is soft opening today right next to the Firehouse, which is already in operation. In May, the airport introduced PGA Tour Grill to the space, too.
The airport’s restaurant operators try to refresh concepts or implement new ones twice a year, said Jeff Taylor, a business development manager at the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
“One of the goals of the concession program is to provide a sense of place that differentiates JIA from other airports,” Taylor said. “Firehouse applies a unique sense of feel to each location with the murals and their team provides unique characteristics of the city. To be able to have its first airport location and first breakfast menu is something we’re very proud of.”
The Firehouse will include the same quality ingredients and style that any Firehouse would, Fox said, including the recently introduced new packaging. Now halfway through 2017, the company is right on track in its goal to open 100 stores during the year, with another 50 to 60 restaurants scheduled during the balance.