Don Fox, who helped turn Firehouse Subs from a small regional chain through to a $1 billion sale to Restaurant Brands International, is stepping down.
In a Facebook post, Fox said he will remain as chairman of the company he led for 13 years but will hand over the day-to-day operations of the brand to Chief Operating Officer Mike Hancock, who will become Firehouse Subs’ president.
He called now the “perfect time” to hand over the job of running the chain over to Hancock, who was named Firehouse chief operating officer a year ago, not long after the sale to RBI. Hancock had spent more than three years as chief operating officer for Tim Hortons and before that worked more than five years with Burger King.
“After 50 years in the restaurant business, including 23 with Burger King and the most recent 20 with Firehouse Subs, I am moving on to a new stage of life,” he said in the post.
In a statement, RBI CEO Josh Kobza said that Hancock will do well taking over Firehouse. “I know Mike will do well in this important role, following his success as COO of Firehouse Subs and his previous roles at Tim Hortons and Burger King,” Kobza said.
He added that Fox will remain involved in Firehouse’s Public Safety Foundation. “Don’s passion for growing the Firehouse Subs brand, working with franchisees and giving back to communities has been so important for the company’s journey,” Kobza said.
Fox, a trumpet player who wanted a career as a musician or a historian, instead landed in the restaurant industry. He landed with Burger King and spent more than two decades there before he was laid off 20 years ago.
He then landed at Firehouse, which at the time was a little-known sandwich chain out of Jacksonville, Fla. He rose through the ranks to become its CEO. The chain had about 400 locations when he took the top job. The company has more than 1,200 restaurants today.
Firehouse was sold to RBI in 2021 for $1 billion, the year’s biggest restaurant deal. RBI paid a multiple of 20 times EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, to buy the sandwich chain. Fox remained as its CEO. But he now leaves the company in the hands of a longtime RBI executive in Hancock.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to add reaction from RBI and to clarify Hancock’s title.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.