June 3rd, 2020

71: Live From IFA- Building the Legendary Firehouse Subs Culture, with CEO Don Fox


Our first installment from the 2020 “Best of IFA” series features Don Fox, CEO of Firehouse Subs. In this live conversation with Brian, Don sheds light on best practices to create the type of brand that can grow and sustain 1,000+ locations. 

Don joined Firehouse Subs in 2003 as a Director of Franchise Compliance before rising to CEO in 2009, growing Firehouse franchise locations from 65 to almost 1,200.

We dig into the importance of developing strong leadership, technical disciplines, and a sound financial model early on. But more importantly, we touch on how Don has been able to foster the type of belief system that manifests into distinct behaviors for the Firehouse Subs brand. In Don’s words, “Your customers chose you based on your values.” The more you have your value system on display, the more your customer has to identify with.

Don, who started his restaurant career in the kitchen scrubbing pots, says he learned some of his most valuable lessons early on in his career. Tune in to hear his fascinating story rising from pot scrubber to CEO of Firehouse Subs and the company culture that has proved to be a cornerstone to the success of the legendary brand. 

What we talk about:

  • Greetings and introduction of Don Fox
  • What Don gets out in attending the IFA
  • The factors that brought the explosive growth
  • “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” – Don Fox
  • The selection of the right franchisees
  • Seeing the potential of the brand
  • The charitable component of Firehouse Subs and its importance
  • How Don’s background affected his leadership style
  • Being a leader, you’re being constantly watched
  • How technology has changed the food industry
  • Bringing the mission to life
  • Defining your culture
  • “Your customers choose you for your value.” – Don Fox
  • Risks taken that led into the business’ defining moment
  • Establishing the commonality of purpose
  • The mainstream marketing as the great equalizer
  • The relationship between the franchisor and franchisees
  • Great communication coupled with fairness
  • A constant stream of franchisees’ feedback


What we mention: