Steve Brewer and Jerry Ayres have been partners in franchising for nearly two decades now. They first caught the franchising bug with fast-casual brand Zaxby’s and they still operate multiple locations with that brand today. More recently, they have teamed up with Penn Station East Coast Subs where they saw not only opportunity for growth but also felt drawn to the brand’s culture of servant leadership.
“When we met the founder, president, and the rest of the leadership at Penn Station it solidified our process,” said 58-year-old Steve Brewer. “We saw so much opportunity and the culture of servant leadership. It felt right, and all the people we met made us feel like we were the same kind of people.”
The partners got a chance to buy into the southern Indiana market and Ayres said, “It made sense for us to take the plunge with Penn Station.” The duo have three stores in southern Indiana and 13 stores in middle Tennessee. Their development agreements call for eight additional units in southern Indiana and 11 more units in middle Tennessee.
Ohio-based Penn Station East Coast Subs is widely-known for serving fresh-grilled and cold deli sandwiches, wraps, and salads made to order with only the freshest, highest quality ingredients. The brand’s loyal fans rave about the menu which also includes fresh-cut fries, hand-squeezed lemonade made fresh throughout the day, and fresh-baked chocolate chunk cookies baked onsite each day. Ayres liked how the Penn Station model offers both hot and cold sandwiches, not many other brands have that.
The growth opportunity offered by Penn Station is important to Brewer and Ayres. “We have 16 Penn Station restaurants between our two markets and have seven to 10 more in each market to develop,” said Brewer. “We are developing similarly geographically with Zaxby’s right now, so it makes sense. We can go places based on where we have both brands, so we will have coverage with people. Penn Station has a fairly simple process and the freshness of the food made it attractive to me.”
Ayres is a big proponent of the Penn Station servant leadership style. “The brand cares about its franchisees,” the 36-year-old operator said. “It’s the whole process of growing people, growing our business, providing the product to more people, and bringing in more people as franchisees to share what they have to offer. It is clear they treat everyone like one big family, and franchisees all help each other.”
Penn Station provides its franchisees with all the training and support they need as they grow. “Any question I asked, they helped,” said Ayres. “We’ll go through the very hands-on training program with our next opening, and I’m excited to see it as the trainers I have met so far have been excellent and very informative.”
Ayres said he researched dozens of brands when he was looking to become a franchisee. “Penn Station has the atmosphere, quality of food, and leadership comparable to Zaxby’s,” he said. “It is definitely a brand to look into if you’re looking to franchise.”
Brewer concurred and said he is genuinely excited to be franchising with Penn Station. “In so many ways, it feels like the perfect fit for our foray into becoming multi-brand franchisees. We think the businesses complement each other very well and with the focus on fresh food and great corporate leadership, there is a huge chance to be successful. Penn Station is an established brand that still has open markets, which is a great opportunity.”
Penn Station East Coast Subs has been turning heads in the franchising space. The brand is consistently included on the Entrepreneur Franchise 500, Franchise Times Franchise 200+, Nation’s Restaurant News Top 200 and Restaurant Business/Technomic Top 500 Chain lists. Penn Station has also been named a Top 100 Mover & Shaker by Fast Casual; a Top 30 Food Franchise, Most Profitable Franchise and Top Multi-Unit Franchise by Franchise Business Review; and one of Consumers’ Most Beloved Brands by Nation’s Restaurant News in 2021.
The brand is looking for qualified franchise investors and has numerous markets available for development. For more information visit www.pennfranchise.com.