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Firehouse Subs' smokin' hot sandwich

The Smokehouse Beef and Cheddar Brisket has been heating up the menu at Firehouse Subs since its launch, and now it’s starring in a special 90-day promotion. What makes this sandwich such a hot ticket at the Jacksonville, Florida sandwich concept? It starts with the meat. firehouse subs

Quest for the best BBQ

Firehouse co-founder Robin Sorensen, a self-proclaimed “barbeque snob,” had wanted to put a BBQ sandwich on the Firehouse menu for years, but couldn’t find a product that met his standards and would work system-wide in all 576 units. “Most non-BBQ restaurants default to pulled pork in a tub, but that wasn’t a good enough alternative,” he says.

The meat’s in the mail

Texas-based Sadler’s Smokehouse sent a smoked brisket for the team to try. “Sadler’s pit-smokes the beef over pure hickory wood for 16 hours, then cryovacs it,” Sorensen explains. Other companies flavor the meat with liquid smoke, he contends. The chain now sources 300,000 pounds of Sadler’s brisket, smoked to order.

Into the steamer

Every morning at each location, the cooked brisket is sliced very thin on an electric slicer, then portioned and held in a steamer. “The steam melts the interior fat and makes the meat very moist and juicy,” says Sorensen. “There are no fryers, grills or ovens in our stores. That’s why we had to find the right vendor to come up with a unique BBQ sandwich.”

Completing the build

Vendor partnerships were key to sourcing all the sandwich components. “Our hot subs have very rich flavors and we rely on our supplier partners to provide the most flavorful ingredients,” Sorensen notes. The cheese is a pre-sliced sharp cheddar from Sargento that “has a little bite” to contrast with the smoky beef. Sweet Baby Ray’s became the “go to” barbeque sauce for its authentic flavor, and the sub rolls are baked by Epi Breads in Atlanta. “We’ve been doing business with that bakery for over 10 years, and they now bake 1 million breads a week for us,” Sorensen reports.

Price pointers

The brisket is the most expensive ingredient in the Firehouse inventory—they pay for 15 pounds of raw meat that shrinks to 10 pounds once it’s smoked—but it’s been worth it, even as beef prices have escalated. The sandwich is proving to be very popular—Sorensen expects to sell 3.5 million in 2013 at around $5.99 apiece.

Salad days

Starting in January, Firehouse began offering any of its hot subs in a salad. So far, the Smokehouse Beef salad is one of the top sellers.

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