Where did Jersey Mikes come from? Much like Moses, the Jersey Mikes legend starts by the water and seems improbable. In 1971 at the Jersey shore town of Point Pleasant, not far from Springsteens Asbury Park turf, Jersey Mikes menu 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 guarantee his loan. His coach did, and that he became the proud owner of Mike’s at the age of 17.
From there he opened some more stores, however it wasnt until 1987 that he started franchising and added Jersey for the name. In a conversation with Jersey Mike’s President Hoyt Jones, he told me by the end of 2019 they’ll be in 49 states (sorry, Alaska) and have close 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 continues on to discuss how, within the next 5 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 right now. 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 an actual rival to Subway because of that heated treadmill oven that toasted their subs, but is currently as a result of under 400 (ends up other places could also toast subs).
What exactly is Jersey Mike’s seeking to do now? I’d like you to do 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 of the story about his dad throughout the River and everybody cries while eating saltwater taffy. That’s the Jersey Mike’s decor. Except instead of everything that, it’s only a few scattered tables and booths, and also the only sign of the beach is literally an indication of a beach, as well as a surfboard on the wall. But you’ve still got the deli case!
But what are they thinking?!? In order to ascertain their intentions, I begged a fancy creative director in a fancy advertising agency to look at a variety of Jersey Mike’s commercials and provide thoughts: “They’re clearly opting for the business lunch crowd — characters are always inside their 20s and 30s, great deal of office shots, not families. Voiceover talent is same age because the target audience, and the style is terse, and ‘clever?’ The conclusion card always shows a wrapped up sub snagged by a consumer, which, again, makes me think they don’t expect you to eat there. And the tagline ‘A Sub Above’ will not be exactly ‘Just Do It’ or ‘Imported from Detroit,’ however i guess it gets throughout the message that their sub is better than competitors.”
As his or her advertising and limited decor suggest, Jersey Mike’s is wanting to possess the fast business lunch, office catering, and delivery apps crowd by proving that they’re a higher quality choice than Subway at the same speed and similar price point, rather than much of a step down out of your actual local deli, but with more convenience, speed, and wall-mounted surfboards. Jones confirmed that they were leaning in difficult to delivery, mentioning that they had national contracts with all of major online delivery companies, and had even integrated UberEats and DoorDash to their proprietary POS system. This really is interesting, because sandwich shops inherently attract more of a mix of blue collar and city workers, and college and school students, therefore if they believe that’s already their base, the push for that white collar crowd seems aspirational.
More than this, Jersey Mike’s itself is fascinating, partly due to its bold growth strategy, partly because of its unique environment (Jones informed me every franchisee must visit Jersey to get a week, then spend time within the field at certified training store), but mostly because, in this heavily saturated time as increasing numbers of food entrepreneurs make an effort to branch out into increasingly niche corners of the fast casual market, it seems strangely retro for any throwback sub shop from your Jersey shore to bet it can carve out a big slice in the working American lunch scene. And yes, which had been 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 made it happen: During the period of a month, I went 3 x to 2 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 had been coming, I bought all my food, and I didnt even sign up for Shore Points, despite the fact that 48 would’ve gotten us a free mini size sub.
Bonus Disclaimer: Item availability can vary greatly from franchise to franchise (unfortunately, not every person stocks TastyKakes).
Now returning to the cheesesteak.
The Best Stuff:
In my view, to be able to qualify for glory, a cheesesteak must posses this Hylian Triforce of elements:
1) The roll has to be toasty and warm capable 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 whenever you bite down.
3) The cheese (Whiz or American) should be in the correct melty consistency to behave as a binding agent for your meat, cheese and onions without overwhelming the entire production.
The cheesesteak at Jersey Mikes prices had all of those elements. The roll, that the woman on the counter informed me was baked every morning from dough shipped from Jersey (a business spokesman confirmed this, telling me the key towards the bread is definitely the Jersey water! and that a longtime bread supplier in Jersey ships the dough out fresh to locations all over the country), was rxdwsn and toasty and flaky and held up to the greasy components of the sandwich. The steak was chopped correctly and without those chewy fatty gristle bits so often 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 those elements together without suffocating them, just like a great parent should, RIGHT DAD?