Firehouse Subs ends a big year on a strong note

The sub chain, bought for $1 billion by Burger King owner Restaurant Brands International, generated nearly 25% two-year same-store sales in the fourth quarter.
Firehouse Subs sales
Photograph: Shutterstock

Guess we now know why Restaurant Brands International was so eager to buy Firehouse Subs.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based sub chain’s same-store sales rose 14.7% in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31—or more than 24% on a two-year basis, RBI said on Tuesday.

For the full year, same-store sales at the 1,200-unit concept were up more than 20%.

RBI, the Toronto-based owner of Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes, acquired Firehouse last year for $1 billion in the biggest restaurant deal of 2021. The numbers reported Tuesday were the first for Firehouse as part of a public company.

The results came during a quarter in which two of the chain’s most important markets—Burger King in the U.S. and Tim Hortons in Canada—saw what the company said was a change in trajectory.

At Burger King U.S., which had been struggling in recent quarters and overhauled its management staff, same-store sales rose 1.8% in the fourth quarter, though that was still down more than 1% on a two-year basis.

Tim Hortons Canada, meanwhile, reported 11.3% same-store sales growth in the quarter, though that was also down more than 1% on a two-year basis.

Popeyes U.S., meanwhile, reported a decline of 1.8% in the fourth quarter—though same-store sales outside the U.S. were up 10.1%.

Nevertheless, the company as a whole increased development. The company added more than 1,200 locations last year, while both Popeyes and Tim Hortons accelerated unit growth internationally. Tim Hortons added more than 300 locations outside Canada, where it now has more than 1,300 of the chain’s nearly 5,300 total locations.

Popeyes, meanwhile, added more than 100 international locations and now has 951 international restaurants. It has 3,705 total.

Digital sales for the company increased 65% in 2021 to more than $10 billion. Nearly 30% of the company’s systemwide sales now comes through digital channels.

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