Lee’s Hoagie House

Lee

Franchising allows Lee’s Hoagie House to bring its brand of stacked, made-to-order sandwiches

to admirers in its home city and beyond. 

By Jim Harris

For decades, people have flocked to Lee’s Hoagie House for a quick, satisfying bite to eat before or after a Philadelphia Eagles game or any other occasion. “We are a local chain and we are your local sandwich shop,” Owner and CEO Allan Lewin says. “When you come in, we get to know you and your order.”

Lee’s customers can expect freshly made sandwiches stacked high with the ingredients of their choice during each of their visits to one of the restaurant’s 18 locations. “We construct our sandwiches differently – we layer meat and put a lot of meat on [them],” Vice President John Connell says. “Hot or cold, it’s always made to order and always made in front of you.”

The restaurant is known not only for its namesake sandwich, but also for popular menu items including Philly cheesesteak, chicken steak and buffalo chicken sandwiches. Most of Lee’s sandwiches are dressed with a “special oil” (an oil and vinegar mix) developed by the company. “People really love [the mix],” Connell adds. “It’s a signature item in our stores.”

In addition to its restaurants in Philadelphia, Lee’s operates locations in New Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina. Regardless of the location, Lee’s customers are vocal in their love of the brand and its sandwiches. The company in the past has earned recognition from readers of Philadelphia magazine, who voted it “best hoagie to take to an Eagles game,” as well as from readers of the Charlotte Observer, who in 2016 named its cheesesteak the best in the Charlotte area.

Continuing to Grow

Lee’s Hoagie House recently celebrated its 65th anniversary. The restaurant’s first location opened its doors in 1953 in Philadelphia; a second location was started in 1977 by independent owners who licensed the brand from the founders. The company began franchising in 2014, with the first Lee’s franchise opening in 2015 at Temple University. Today, Lee’s has four franchise locations, two company-owned restaurants and 12 licensed stores. 

The average Lee’s location is between 1,300 to 1,800 square feet in area. Franchises follow one of two building models: conversions of existing buildings, which new floors and signage are added; or new ground-up buildings. The restaurant has free-standing locations as well as end-cap and middle-of-the-row shopping center locations. All Lee’s franchises also offer catering and delivery services.

Lee’s is focused on expanding its footprint through franchising, particularly within the Tri-State area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. “We’re looking to grow locally in Philly and the Tri-State area and want to add two to three locations each year,” Lewin says. “We’re creating a partnership with one of our franchisees to become an area developer to handle new inquires in the southern states.” 

Lee’s newest and future locations feature a new store design that includes open seating and colors and interiors inspired by Philadelphia. “I think you have to put yourself out there and have a design that people react to, and we’re hoping this design does that for us,” Connell says. 

Supporting its Teammates

The company seeks new franchisees that will follow its time-honored recipes and traditions. “We’re looking for a team player — someone who does not want to rewrite the playbook,” Lewin says. “Even if they have experience, we have found people sometimes have the wrong experience and train them our way. We have also taken people who have never done this before and taught them how to do it.”

The ideal Lee’s franchisee is friendly and highly communicative. “When you get involved in a franchise, it’s like getting married to someone, so we need to trust each other,” Lewin adds. “I’m looking for someone who is community orientated, energetic and easy to get along with.” 

Entrepreneurs wishing to open a Lee’s Hoagie House franchise must have at least $125,000 in liquid assets. The company charges a franchise fee of $30,000 per location and also collects an ongoing royalty fee of 5 percent and a 1 to 2 percent advertising fund charge. 

New franchisees are given extensive training and support. “We work with you from start to finish,” Lewin says. “We have a three-week ‘university’ training program at one of our corporate stores that is mostly hands-on. 

“Once you are open, we provide a couple of our employees that come down to make sure you get off the ground smoothly,” he adds. “We assist in design, layout and equipment purchasing to get your store  open.”

Lee’s support of its franchisees continues long after a location’s grand opening. “If there’s a problem with something, they can take a video and we can almost fix it just by looking at it,” Lewin says. “[Franchisees] have my personal cell phone number; if they have problems, they can call me directly.”

 

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