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Castle Harlan’s CRI Expands into Mexico with Firehouse Subs

4 April 2017

Caribbean Restaurant Inc. (CRI), the Puerto Rican Burger King franchisee acquired by private equity firm Castle Harlan, launched an expansion into Mexico as the master franchisee of Firehouse of America, owner of Firehouse Subs restaurant chain.

(Press Release) Caribbean Restaurant Inc. (CRI), the exclusive Burger King franchisee on Puerto Rico with 175 Burger King restaurants on the island, has launched an expansion into Mexico as the master franchisee of Firehouse of America, LLC, owner of the fast casual restaurant chain Firehouse Subs, popular in the United States for its steamed hot subs.

CRI, which in addition to its Burger King restaurants, also operates 12 Firehouse Subs in Puerto Rico, plans to open several hundred more across Mexico under its agreement with Firehouse of America, LLC. The agreement gives CRI the right to license other franchisees to operate Firehouse Subs units in Mexico, and potentially throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. CRI opened its first Firehouse Subs in Mexico City in January and has one under construction. Its first franchisee soon will open another now under construction, also in Mexico City.

“We have been successfully operating Firehouse Subs in Puerto Rico for more than five years, and we know from experience that the food and dining experience are very popular.  The bold, rich flavors are an excellent fit with the island’s culinary scene, as they will be with Mexico’s dining preferences,” said Aniceto Solares, CEO of CRI.  “We look forward to expanding broadly across Mexico, then, perhaps, to other Latin American countries and the Caribbean.”

Castle Harlan, the New York private equity investment firm, acquired CRI in 2004 and subsequently invested $12 million to acquire rights to Firehouse Subs in Puerto Rico and Latin America, as well as to build its first units.  CRI has funded the remainder of its Firehouse Subs growth internally.  CRI operates its Firehouse Subs franchise in Puerto Rico through a subsidiary, Latin American Subs, LLC.  Another subsidiary, Latin American Subs Mexico, is the operating entity for the expansion into Mexico.

Firehouse Subs® is a fast casual restaurant chain renown for hearty food and friendly service.  It was founded by Chris Sorensen and Robin Sorensen, brothers and former firefighters.  They have made their commitment to public service and safety an important element of the brand.  Firehouse Subs is a brand built on steaming hot subs piled high with high-quality meats and cheeses and its commitment to saving lives through the establishment of the non-profit Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation®.  The company, which was founded in 1994 and has grown to more than 1,050 restaurants in 44 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico, is built upon a family of franchise operators who share the Sorensens’ passion for generously serving food and community.  For the last three years, Firehouse Subs was ranked No. 1 by Technomic’s Chain Restaurant Consumers’ Choice Awards among fast casual brands in the categories of overall brand (2017), food quality (2016), service (2015) and atmosphere (2014). Forbes recognized Firehouse Subs in 2015 as a Best Franchise to Buy.

“Castle Harlan worked with CRI for some time to identify another restaurant concept for Puerto Rico and finally decided on Firehouse Subs about six years ago because of the company’s reputation for high-quality food and strong management.  The chain is expanding across the United States.  CRI has made it popular in Puerto Rico and it is off to a great start in Mexico,” said David B. Pittaway, Senior Managing Director of Castle Harlan.

CRI, in addition to being the exclusive Burger King franchisee in Puerto Rico, also is the exclusive Firehouse Subs franchisee for the island.  It has been in continuous operation for 53 years and is a market leader among restaurant franchises on the island.