Published on 27 Feb 2023 Time 19 min read Last update by 28 May 2024

Top 10 Sandwich Chains – The Most Popular Sandwiches from Around the World (2024)

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Sandwiches are one of the most popular and widely consumed foods in the world. The simple yet versatile concept of placing ingredients between two pieces of bread has given rise to a vast array of variations, with different countries and cultures creating their own unique takes on this classic dish. From the traditional deli-style sandwiches of New York City to the iconic Philly cheesesteak, sandwiches have become a beloved staple of the American diet. With the proliferation of fast food restaurants and the rise of on-the-go dining, sandwich chains have become a popular choice for consumers looking for quick and convenient meals. These chains offer a wide range of sandwiches, from simple classics to gourmet creations, all in a variety of bread and fillings to cater to different tastes and dietary preferences.

But with so many sandwich chains to choose from, it can take time to know which ones are worth trying. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the top 10 sandwich chains in the United States. This article will give you a brief overview of each chain, its specialties, and what sets them apart from the competition.

So if you’re a sandwich lover looking for new places to try or just curious about which chains are leading the pack, read on to discover the top 10 sandwich chains in the United States.

Top 10 Sandwich Chains:

1. Subway

Subway, a fast food restaurant chain known for its signature submarine sandwiches, or “subs,” is a global brand with a presence in over 100 countries. The story of Subway began in 1965, when 17-year-old Fred DeLuca borrowed $1,000 from a family friend, Dr. Peter Buck, to open a sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

DeLuca’s goal was to make enough money to pay for his college education, and with Dr. Buck’s investment, he opened “Pete’s Super Submarines”. The shop was a success, and DeLuca soon decided to expand the business. He and Dr. Buck formed a partnership, and by 1974, they had opened 16 Subway locations in Connecticut.

However, it wasn’t until 1983 that Subway truly began to take off. That year, the company introduced a new concept: the “Subway sandwich artist”. This was a trained employee who could create sandwiches to order, allowing customers to choose from a variety of bread, meats, cheeses, vegetables, and condiments. This customization approach was a huge hit with consumers, and the company rapidly expanded.

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In 1990, Subway reached a major milestone by opening its 5,000th location, and in 1998, it surpassed McDonald’s to become the largest fast food chain in the world in terms of the number of locations. Today, Subway has over 40,000 locations worldwide and serves more than 7 million sandwiches each day.

Subway’s success has been driven in part by its focus on healthier options. In 2008, the company introduced its “Fresh Fit” menu, which features sandwiches with six grams of fat or less. Subway has also taken steps to remove artificial ingredients and preservatives from its menu, and it offers a variety of low-fat and vegetarian options.

Over the years, Subway has faced some challenges, including criticism over the nutritional value of its food and concerns about the treatment of workers at franchise locations. However, the company has made efforts to address these issues, and remains a popular choice for consumers around the world.

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The Subway franchise requires a minimum net worth of $80,000 and at least $30,000 in liquid cash. The initial investment for a Subway franchise ranges from $222,050 to $506,900, and the franchise fee is $15,000 for each store. Subway franchises have a high royalty fee of 8% on gross sales and a marketing fee of 4.5%. The average profit margin is 10%, and the estimated time to recoup the initial investment is about 7.3 years. The company’s revenue in 2021 was $769 million, and the franchise saw a 21.3% increase in revenue from 2020 to 2021. However, the resale value of a Subway franchise is low. In 2021, the company saw a net decrease of 1,043 Subway franchises. The failure rate for Subway franchises in 2021 was nearly 10%, and over the past three years, it has been over 20%.

2. Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John’s is a popular sandwich franchise that was founded in 1983 by Jimmy John Liautaud in Charleston, Illinois. The story goes that after graduating high school, Jimmy’s father gave him the choice between joining the military or starting a business. Jimmy chose the latter and, with a $25,000 loan from his father, opened his first sandwich shop at the age of 19.

In the early days, Jimmy John’s menu was limited to just four sandwich options, which were made with fresh-baked bread and high-quality ingredients. The sandwiches were a hit with customers, and soon Jimmy John’s began to expand. By 1994, the company had opened its 100th location.

In 2007, Jimmy John’s began offering franchises, which helped the company to continue its rapid expansion. Today, there are over 2,800 Jimmy John’s locations in the United States, making it one of the top sandwich franchises in the country.

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Despite its growth, Jimmy John’s has stayed true to its roots, offering sandwiches made with fresh, high-quality ingredients and baked bread. The company is also known for its fast delivery times, with many locations offering delivery in under 10 minutes.

Jimmy John’s has expanded rapidly, with over 2,800 locations in the United States, and started offering franchises in 2007. Although the company has experienced some closings and has been under investigation for food safety, it still remains one of the top sandwich franchises in the U.S.

The Jimmy John’s franchise fee ranges from $30,000 to $35,000, and the total estimated initial investment ranges from $355,900 to $671,400. The company requires franchisees to have at least $80,000 in non-borrowed cash resources and $300,000 in personal wealth. Franchisees are also required to participate in a seven-week training program, and ongoing fees include a 6% royalty and a 4.5% marketing fee. The median franchise sales for Jimmy John’s was $874,845 in 2021, and franchise owners have the potential to make a profit. However, the company has experienced a decline in the number of outlets over the last three years.

3. Arby’s

Arby’s is a fast-food chain that has become a household name for its delicious and unique sandwiches, made with roast beef and other meats. The company has a rich history that spans over half a century, from its humble beginnings in Boardman, Ohio, to its current position as one of the largest sandwich chains in the United States.

The story of Arby’s begins in 1964, when two brothers, Forrest and Leroy Raffel, opened the first Arby’s restaurant in Boardman, Ohio. The name “Arby’s” came from the initials “R.B.”, which stood for “Raffel Brothers”, and the idea for the restaurant came from the brothers’ love of roast beef sandwiches. They wanted to create a fast-food chain that would serve high-quality, freshly sliced roast beef sandwiches to customers.

The first Arby’s restaurant was a huge success, and the company began to expand rapidly. By 1967, there were 50 Arby’s locations across the United States, and by 1971, there were over 100. During this time, Arby’s began to offer other meats in addition to roast beef, such as turkey, ham, and chicken, as well as sides like curly fries and mozzarella sticks.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Arby’s continued to grow and innovate, introducing new menu items and expanding its reach across the country. In the 1990s, the company underwent a series of changes, including a merger with the fast-food chain Wendy’s, which helped to fuel its growth even further.

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Today, Arby’s is known for its delicious sandwiches, inventive menu items, and humorous advertising campaigns. The company has over 3,300 locations worldwide and continues to expand and innovate, offering new menu items and modernizing its restaurants to meet the changing needs of its customers.

In 2011, the Roark Capital Group acquired 81.5% of Arby’s Restaurant Group, with The Wendy’s Company owning the remaining 18.5%. The Food and Beverage Industry in the U.S accounts for 13% of all manufacturing employment, and Arby’s is one of the many food franchises that make up 36% of the total franchise establishments in the country.

The estimated total investment necessary to begin the operation of an Arby’s franchise ranges from $637,950 to $2,306,000, and prospective franchisees are required to have a minimum of $500,000 in liquid capital and a net worth of over $1,000,000. Arby’s requires ongoing fees, including a royalty of 4.0% of gross sales for traditional restaurants and 6.2% for non-traditional ones, a marketing fee of 4.2% of gross sales, and a local marketing fee of 2.3% of gross sales. In 2021, Arby’s median franchise sales were $1,296,616, and the EBITDA multiplier was around 3x for a single restaurant, with multiples going up to 7x for five or more restaurants. Arby’s has over 3,400 locations in the U.S. and has seen growth over the past three years, with an increase from 3,327 in 2019 to 3,407 in 2021.


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4. Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Mike’s is a popular sandwich chain that has been serving fresh, made-to-order sandwiches since 1956. The company was founded by a young man named Peter Cancro who began working at Mike’s Subs in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. In 1975, when he was just 17 years old, Cancro approached the owner of the shop with an offer to buy the business. Despite his young age, Cancro was determined to own the business and was able to secure a loan to purchase the shop.

After taking over the business, Cancro worked hard to maintain the quality of the sandwiches and to expand the company’s reach. He changed the name of the shop to Jersey Mike’s Subs and began offering franchises in 1987. Today, Jersey Mike’s has more than 2,500 locations across the United States, making it one of the fastest-growing sandwich chains in the country.

What sets Jersey Mike’s apart from other sandwich chains is its commitment to using only the freshest ingredients. The company prides itself on its high-quality meats and cheeses, which are sliced fresh to order. The bread is also baked fresh in-house every day, giving customers a truly authentic and delicious sandwich experience.

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Another unique aspect of Jersey Mike’s is its commitment to giving back to the community. The company is dedicated to supporting local charities and organizations through its “Subs for a Cure” program. This program raises money for cancer research and treatment and has raised millions of dollars over the years.

Jersey Mike’s is a franchise business that requires an $18,500 upfront fee and a total investment ranging from $194,035 to $954,611. The estimated profit margin for a franchise is around 10-20%, and it takes around 5 years to recoup the initial investment. The franchisor’s revenue in 2021 was $398,418,542, and the company had a profit of $38.5 million. Jersey Mike’s has been expanding in recent years, with a growth rate of almost 40% between 2019 and 2021.

5. Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs is a popular American fast-food chain that specializes in hot and cold subs. Founded in 1994 by brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, the chain has since expanded to a lot of locations across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

The Sorensen brothers were firefighters in Jacksonville, Florida, and decided to use their experience and passion for food to open a restaurant that would pay tribute to the brave men and women who serve as first responders. They named their restaurant “Firehouse Subs” and decorated it with firefighting memorabilia, such as helmets, axes, and photos of local fire departments.

The first Firehouse Subs location opened in Jacksonville in 1994, and it quickly gained a loyal following. The restaurant’s unique concept, coupled with its high-quality ingredients and dedication to customer service, helped it grow in popularity and expand to new locations. In 1995, the company began franchising, and by 2000, there were 25 Firehouse Subs restaurants in operation.

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Over the years, Firehouse Subs has continued to innovate and grow. In 2005, the company launched the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides funding, equipment, and educational opportunities to first responders and their families. The foundation has since donated over $60 million to support firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians across the United States.

Today, Firehouse Subs is known for its high-quality meats and cheeses, freshly baked bread, and an extensive menu of hot and cold subs, salads, and sides. The chain’s commitment to serving delicious food with a side of philanthropy has helped it become a beloved brand in the fast-food industry. With new locations opening regularly, Firehouse Subs shows no signs of slowing down and continues to make a positive impact in the communities it serves.

The initial franchise fee for opening a Firehouse Subs franchise is $20,000, with a total investment ranging from $189,574 to $997,320 depending on the type of restaurant site. Franchisees must have at least $80,000 to invest, a credit score of at least 650, a strong inner drive for excellence, devotion to the Firehouse Subs business, community-mindedness, and a love for subs. Ongoing fees include a 6% royalty on gross sales and 4% for local advertising. The average unit weekly sales volume for Firehouse Subs is $20,066, and the estimated profit margin is around 10-20% of median franchise sales, with an estimated time to recoup investment ranging from 5 to 8 years.

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6. Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Potbelly Corporation is an American fast-casual restaurant chain that specializes in submarine sandwiches and milkshakes. It is publicly traded and was established in 1977 in Chicago, named after the potbelly stove. Potbelly’s menu highlights hot sandwiches and also offers soup, shakes, smoothies, potato chips, and cookies. Additionally, some locations provide live music performances from local musicians during lunch hours.

Potbelly Sandwich Works originated in 1971 as an antique store called Hindsight located on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. The store featured an old potbelly stove, which the founder, Peter Hastings, used to make toasted sandwiches for customers. In 1977, Hindsight was transformed into the first Potbelly restaurant.

Bryant Keil acquired the original store in 1996 and rapidly expanded the business, growing it to over 300 stores across several states and the District of Columbia. Notable investors include Maveron, founded by Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, and American Securities. As of August 2019, around 10% of the chain’s 450+ locations were franchised.

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In August 2013, Potbelly launched an initial public offering with the aim of raising up to $75 million. The company’s shares began trading on the NASDAQ Stock Market on October 4, 2013, with a market cap of approximately $650 million shortly after the IPO.

Potbelly is known for its hot sandwiches, soups, shakes, smoothies, potato chips, and cookies. They have also hosted live music performances at some locations. In 2007, a Potbelly store in Glen Ellyn, Illinois became the first location to feature a drive-through, with a second added soon after in Waukegan, Illinois.

The first international Potbelly locations opened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2011. Potbelly then expanded to Europe with a location at Westfield Stratford City in London in 2015 and its first Canadian store in Toronto in 2016. As of August 2017, Potbelly’s lunch business accounted for 60% of its overall business, and it had 424 owned stores and 54 franchised locations.

In December 2017, Potbelly opened its first franchise in India with a new location in Cyber City, Gurgaon, as part of a multi-franchise agreement with India’s Kwals Group to open five franchises in the country by the end of 2018 and 20 locations over the next five years.

The company is a fast-casual restaurant in the Food and Beverage industry, founded in 2009 and based in Chicago. They do not work with franchise brokers and have a 1% marketing fee, a 6% royalty fee, and a franchise fee of $40,000. The investment range is $535,000 to $874,000 and they have a total of 478 locations in the U.S., with 41 franchised units and 437 corporate units.

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7. Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop is a fast-casual restaurant chain that was founded in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1976 by Lois and Alan Margolet. The couple started the business as a small sandwich shop, and over the years, it has grown into a popular franchise with locations across the United States.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop is known for its delicious, freshly made sandwiches, salads, and sides. The company is especially famous for its signature sandwich, the Bobbie, which is made with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mayonnaise. The sandwich is so popular that it has become a staple for many of Capriotti’s customers and has helped the company gain a loyal following.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop is a fast-casual restaurant franchise with multiple company-owned and franchise locations across the U.S. Their menu features hot subs and sandwiches, including their signature “Bobbie” sub, and they offer catering services for events. The franchise fee is $40,000, and the investment range is $417,100 to $748,500. Capriotti’s provides their franchisees with extensive training and support, a comprehensive marketing plan, and access to their proprietary POS system and ordering platform. The franchise payback period is between 5.2 and 6.2 years, and the owner’s salary/compensation ranges from $77,800 to $144,000.

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8. Which Wich

Which Wich is a fast-casual sandwich chain that was founded in Dallas, Texas, in 2003 by Jeff Sinelli. The concept behind Which Wich is simple: customers choose from a variety of sandwich options, then customize their order by selecting their bread, fillings, and toppings using a unique ordering system. The customer marks their order on a sandwich bag and hands it to the sandwich artist, who prepares the sandwich exactly to their specifications. This approach not only allows for a high level of customization but also ensures that each sandwich is made exactly to the customer’s liking.

Which Wich offers a wide variety of sandwich options, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices. The company is also committed to using high-quality, fresh ingredients, and offers a range of healthier options, such as low-carb lettuce wraps and salads.

In addition to its dedication to quality and customer service, Which Wich has also been recognized for its philanthropic efforts. The company partners with several charitable organizations, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and encourages its customers to donate to these causes when placing their orders.

The minimum investment required to open a Which Wich franchise is $253,500, and the franchise fee is $30,000. They have 264 U.S. franchised units, and the franchise payback period ranges from 4.7 to 5.7 years.

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9. Togo’s

Togo’s is a fast-casual sandwich chain that was founded in San Jose, California, in 1971 by a young college student named Mike Cobler. The first Togo’s location was a small sandwich shop in downtown San Jose that quickly became a popular destination for locals seeking fresh, delicious sandwiches made with high-quality ingredients.

Over the years, Togo’s has expanded significantly, with over 200 locations across the United States. Despite its growth, the company has remained committed to its original mission of serving delicious sandwiches made with the freshest and highest quality ingredients.

In addition to its commitment to quality and freshness, Togo’s is also known for its dedication to customer service. The company’s employees, known as “sandwich artists” are trained to provide a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, and to go above and beyond to ensure that every customer leaves satisfied.

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Togo’s has also made a significant impact on its local communities. The company has a long history of supporting local charities and non-profit organizations, including partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Togo’s offers a turnkey package that includes all equipment and supplies needed to open a location. The franchise fee ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, with a total investment cost ranging from $232,000 to $477,000. The average unit volume is $645,000, and the franchise payback period is 3-4 years.

10. Quiznos

Quiznos is a popular fast-food chain that specializes in toasted sandwiches. The company was founded in 1981 by Jimmy Lambatos and Todd Disner.

The concept for Quiznos originated from the founders’ passion for high-quality food and their desire to create a sandwich that was different from the typical, pre-packaged offerings that were available at the time. They wanted to create a sandwich that was hot, toasted, and made with the freshest ingredients available.

The first Quiznos location opened in Denver, Colorado, in 1981, and quickly became a local favorite. The restaurant’s signature toasted sandwiches, made with fresh bread, high-quality meats and cheeses, and a variety of toppings, proved to be a winning combination that set it apart from other sandwich chains.

Over the years, Quiznos continued to innovate and expand. In 1991, the company began franchising, and by 2001, there were over 1,000 locations worldwide. Quiznos also developed a reputation for its clever and memorable advertising campaigns, including the popular “Spongmonkeys” commercials that aired in the early 2000s.

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Despite its early success, Quiznos faced some challenges in the late 2000s and early 2010s. The company struggled with declining sales and increased competition from other sandwich chains. In 2014, Quiznos filed for bankruptcy and began closing many of its locations.

Quiznos has experienced a decline in its number of locations from over 4,500 a decade ago to just 238 now. The brand’s foundation of low profits is said to have resulted in franchisees making almost no profit, leading to many locations closing during the 2008 recession.

The initial fee for a Quiznos franchise is $10,000, and the estimated total investment for opening one ranges from $216,100 to $338,500. According to Quiznos’ income statement, the company lost a significant amount of money in 2020, and in 2021 it only made $15,000 in profit.

Conclusion

Sandwiches have become a beloved staple of the American diet, with a wide range of variations and options available to cater to different tastes and dietary preferences. Among the many sandwich chains in the United States, Subway, Jimmy John’s, Arby’s, and Jersey Mike’s stand out as some of the top contenders in the market. Each chain has its unique history, menu, and approach to serving customers, but all share a commitment to high-quality ingredients and fast, convenient service. As the sandwich industry continues to evolve and grow, these chains and others will continue to offer new and innovative menu items and experiences for sandwich lovers everywhere.

If you’re interested in investing in a sandwich franchise, make sure to check the several franchise opportunities on our Vetted Biz website!

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