(Ambrosio’s note: This interview made me really hungry. I could tell from Ashley’s pride in describing their menu and from the photos they sent, that the food at Capriotti’s is on a totally different level compared to other sandwich franchises. I can’t wait to visit one of their restaurants the next time I’m in Las Vegas.)
Capriotti’s Sandwich Company is an award-winning specialty sandwich retailer with more than 70 company-owned and franchised restaurants in 12 states across the U.S. (specifically, in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Nevada). The company’s headquarters are in Las Vegas.
With a reputation for gourmet taste, Capriotti’s prides itself on using the freshest ingredients in order to provide customers with a taste of home in every bite. Their signature sandwich, the Bobbie, was voted “The Greatest Sandwich in America” by thousands of readers across the country, as reported by AOL.com.
Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti’s, was a former money manager at Wells Fargo and a Capriotti’s franchisee.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you share with us the story of how Capriotti’s got its start?
Ashely Morris (AM): The first Capriotti’s was opened in 1976 in Wilmington, DE by Lois Margolet with the idea to make sandwiches for turkey lovers. To her, that meant roasting whole turkeys every night and then using the freshly roasted, pulled turkey in the next day’s sandwiches.
FC: For those unfamiliar, please tell us about your food? What is unique about your menu compared to other fast food franchises specializing in sandwiches?
AM: Capriotti’s sets itself apart from the other options by offering the freshest ingredients. Also, our sandwiches are unique to Capriotti’s, such as the Bobbie (Capriotti’s best-seller, made with homemade turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo), Capastrami (hot pastrami, swiss cheese, Russian dressing and cole slaw) and the SlawBeJo (homemade roast beef, provolone cheese, Russian dressing, cole slaw and may0).
FC: What is the #1 thing that sets Capriotti’s apart from other franchise opportunities?
AM: There are a lot of sandwich shops out there and it can be confusing for someone looking to become a franchisee. We really stand behind the quality of our product 100% and that has made us both successful in expanding, in recruiting franchisees and gaining fans. People can tell when the food is high quality and delicious and that shines through in every aspect of Capriotti’s.
FC: Can you describe the ideal franchisee for a Capriotti’s restaurant?
AM: Because we are so passionate about our food, we want our franchisees to be passionate also.
FC: What is your success model for building strong relationships with your franchisees?
AM: We have built some really great relationships with our franchisees and I think it’s because we make an effort to include them in the Capriotti’s family. The corporate and executive team frequently travels to visit the stores and check in on a personal level with the franchisees.
FC: What is the ideal neighborhood and territory for a Capriotti’s restaurant? In what regions of the country do you see the strongest demand for your restaurants?
AM: We are going through a really big growth spurt right now, mainly focused in the Southwest (Southern California, Nevada and Arizona) and throughout the Mid-Atlantic. We just began a big development in Texas and are soon to open in the Boston area. We are so lucky to be well received in pretty much every market, because who doesn’t love delicious sandwiches. Since we have such a wide variety — hot, cold, Cheese Steaks and our Signature creations like the Bobbie — it’s hard for someone to not find a sandwich they like.
FC: What specific steps do your most successful franchisees take in order to build and grow their respective businesses?
AM: We work closely with franchisees from day one. While we do not require it, we like our franchisees to secure an area development deal so they can really take hold of their market and thrive.
FC: What are some of the things you are doing to help your franchisees become profitable?
AM: We have a really great corporate team that supports every aspect of the business from marketing to training to answering day-to-day questions. Since we are still a growing brand, we have made sure that every necessary foundation is set in place. That was really important to me, that we make sure the company had the ability to grow before growing too fast and not being able to support itself.
FC: What are your goals for Capriotti’s in the next few years and how do you plan to grow your business?
AM: We have spent that past few years building the foundation for Capriotti’s growth which means we are really poised for growth now. Our plan is for about 300 stores in the next 5 years.
FC: What advice can you give prospective franchisees on how to evaluate the overwhelming number of franchise opportunities available to them?
AM: It’s incredibly important to be passionate because if you don’t love what you do every day, you will lose the drive very quickly.
FC: Finally, what advice can you offer new franchisees on how to increase their chances for success in the restaurant business?
AM: Do your research when looking at franchising. Every franchise is very different and while there may be certain aspects that are attractive, it’s important to look at the whole picture, including the franchise itself, the leadership, the economy, the location, etc.