Where did Jersey Mikes come from? Similar to Moses, the Jersey Mikes legend starts by the water and seems improbable. In 1971 at the Jersey shore city of Point Pleasant, not far away from Springsteens Asbury Park turf, Jersey Mike’s CEO Peter Cancro started working at a place called Mike’s Subs at age 14. When he was a senior in senior high school, he heard the owner was selling, so he asked his football coach (who was also a banker, because in 70s, anything was possible) to ensure his loan. His coach did, and then he became the proud owner of Mike’s at the age of 17.
From there he opened a few more stores, however it wasnt until 1987 that he started franchising and added Jersey towards the name. In a conversation with Jersey Mike’s President Hoyt Jones, he told me at the end of 2019 they’ll remain in 49 states (sorry, Alaska) and have near to 1,700 stores, with 200 freshly opened in 2019. A 2018 Inc. magazine story quotes Cancro as saying, We’re just starting out and goes on to speak about how, over the next five years, they need to add another 1,500 locations.
Do you need some competitor context? Subway, quite alarmingly, has nearly 45,000 locations. Odds are like one in two you’re standing in just one at this time. Arby’s has 3,300. Jimmy John’s 2,800. Firehouse around 1,100. Quiznos at its peak in 2007 had over 4,700 locations and was considered a real rival to Subway because of that heated treadmill oven that toasted their subs, but has become right down to under 400 (appears other places could also toast subs).
What is Jersey Mike’s trying to do now? I’d like you to accomplish a visual exercise in nostalgia: imagine you’re in a surf shack deli on the beach in Jersey. There exists a big glass case showcasing the meats. There exists sand tracked in on the floor, and waves lapping outside as Bruce Springsteen plays a live set where he tells the long version in the story about his dad through the River and everybody cries while eating saltwater taffy. That’s the Jersey Mike’s decor. Except as opposed to everything that, it’s just a few scattered tables and booths, and the only sign of the beach is literally a sign of a beach, along with a surfboard on the wall. But you’ve still got the deli case!
But exactly what are they thinking?!? In order to ascertain their intentions, I begged an expensive creative director with a fancy advertising agency to look at a variety of Jersey Mike’s commercials and present thoughts: “They’re clearly opting for the company lunch crowd — characters will always be in their 20s and 30s, lot of office shots, not families. Voiceover talent is same age since the target audience, as well as the style is terse, and ‘clever?’ The final card always shows a wrapped up sub snagged with a consumer, which, again, makes me think they don’t expect one to eat there. As well as the tagline ‘A Sub Above’ is not exactly ‘Just Do It’ or ‘Imported from Detroit,’ having said that i guess it gets throughout the message that their sub is preferable over competitors.”
As their advertising and limited decor suggest, Jersey Mike’s is attempting to obtain the quick business lunch, office catering, and delivery apps crowd by proving that they’re a greater quality choice than Subway in the same speed and other price point, rather than a good deal of step down from the actual local deli, but with more convenience, speed, and wall-mounted surfboards. Jones confirmed they were leaning in hard to delivery, mentioning that they had national contracts with all major online delivery companies, and had even integrated UberEats and DoorDash to their proprietary POS system. This really is interesting, because sandwich shops inherently get more of a mixture of blue collar and city workers, and college and school students, so if they think that’s already their base, the push for that white collar crowd seems aspirational.
More than this, Jersey Mike’s itself is fascinating, partly because of its bold growth strategy, partly due to the unique environment (Jones informed me every franchisee must come to Jersey for any week, then spend some time within the field at certified training store), but mostly because, within this heavily saturated time as increasing numbers of food entrepreneurs try to branch out into increasingly niche corners in the fast casual market, it seems strangely retro for any throwback sub shop from your Jersey shore to bet it could carve out a sizable slice in the working American lunch scene. You will find, that was a deli meat pun.
Cold subs ordered Mike’s Way are dressed with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, vinegar, oil and spices | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Jersey Mikes Menu Review
How I did it: Throughout per month, I went 3 x to two different Northern California Jersey Mike’s locations. Overall, I tried ten sandwiches and three desserts. Per the ethics of such reviews, I didn’t inform anyone at Jersey Mike’s I used to be coming, I paid for all my food, and I didnt even join Shore Points, despite the fact that 48 would’ve gotten me a free mini size sub.
Bonus Disclaimer: Item availability can vary from franchise to franchise (unfortunately, not everyone stocks TastyKakes).
Now to the cheesesteak.
The Best Stuff:
In my view, so that you can be eligible for glory, a cheesesteak must posses this Hylian Triforce of elements:
1) The roll must be toasty and warm and able to withstand the grease in the melted cheese, meat, and onions/peppers without sogging through.
2) The chopped steak has to be crispy and tender, without an abundance of the fatty, inedible bits that bounce your teeth back once you bite down.
3) The cheese (Whiz or American) has to be of the correct melty consistency to act as a binding agent for that meat, cheese and onions without overwhelming the whole production.
The cheesesteak at Jersey Mikes menu with prices had all of those elements. The roll, which the woman in the counter told me was baked each morning from dough shipped from Jersey (a business spokesman confirmed this, telling me the secret towards the bread is the Jersey water! which a longtime bread supplier in Jersey ships the dough out fresh to locations around the country), was rxdwsn and toasty and flaky and held as much as the greasy aspects of the sandwich. The steak was chopped correctly and devoid of those chewy fatty gristle bits so frequently apparent in off-Philly cheesesteak productions. The onions and peppers tasted like real vegetables with a few bite but were not over greasy and oily. The white American cheese hugged all those elements together without suffocating them, similar to a great parent should, RIGHT DAD?