Firehouse Subs takes its sandwiches to Europe

The sub chain opened its first location outside of North America, in Zurich. And it has a development deal in Mexico, making the chain’s first major forays into international markets under Restaurant Brands International.
Firehouse Subs Zurich
Firehouse Subs' new Zurich location will be a model for other international units. | Photo courtesy of Restaurant Brands International

Firehouse Subs on Thursday said that it opened a location in Zurich, Switzerland, and that it has a deal to expand in Mexico starting later this year.

The deals represent a pair of major milestones for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based chain. The Zurich location is its first outside North America, and the deal in Mexico is its first south of the border.

And it’s a notable moment for its parent company, Restaurant Brands International, which bought the chain in 2021 so it could do just that sort of thing. Firehouse operated a small number of international locations, all of which are in Canada.

International is a huge focus for RBI, which owns Burger King, now a global behemoth, and is taking Tim Hortons and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen into more international markets, too.

“Firehouse Subs is our newest brand, and we are excited about its global expansion potential,” said David Shear, president of international for RBI. He said the Zurich location and the Mexico deal are “the first steps in our international expansion” and he suggested it will launch in other countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The Zurich location in particular is a key one for the brand. RBI said the location would be a “showcase” for future international restaurants, featuring self-order kiosks, mobile ordering, table service and 62 seats.

Firehouse generated $1.15 billion in global system sales last year, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. But only $52 million of that came from outside the U.S., from 55 global locations. At the time of the deal, executives said that the deal would help Firehouse accelerate international development.

Brands have been focused more intently on international growth in recent years as development challenges and a competitive domestic market makes other countries more attractive. At Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which RBI acquired in 2017, global sales rose 27.7% last year, according to Technomic. In the U.S., they increased 4.7%.

Non-U.S. sales rose 13.3% at Burger King but just 2.4% in the U.S. RBI is hoping to get similar results out of firehouse.

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