The Bright Side of Business bimonthly column is presented by Star Motors.
When it comes to running a business and supporting his community, Pradip Patel has one simple motto: “The answer is yes – what's the question?”
After getting a taste of Firehouse Subs while in Atlanta, Patel brought the U.S.-based restaurant chain to Ottawa. With a successful opening in Gloucester in 2017, Patel and his team expanded to Nepean in 2019. Both locations quickly generated more than $1 million in sales. Leveraging the momentum, the team opened a third location in Orléans this month.
While Patel wasn’t the first to bring Firehouse Subs to Canada, he was the first Canadian to sign a franchisee agreement.
“I was head over heels,” he explains. But it wasn’t just the food or the business opportunity. His excitement also came from the restaurant’s charitable foundation, which raises money for first responder equipment.
“I can go to work and support my community at the same time,” he says. “It's a win-win situation for me.”
In less than two weeks, the Orléans restaurant has raised more than $4,000 in donations. Patel estimates that the three locations have collectively raised more than $216,000 in donations through customers rounding up the price of their subs. The funds then go towards buying equipment, gas generators, ATVs and more.
In recognition of his leadership and contributions, Patel won the 2019 Firehouse Subs Franchisee of the Year, receiving the coveted Axe Award.
“It's amazing to let our team and our guests know what we've done thanks to their support,” he says.
All hands on deck
No stranger to franchising, Patel ran an Esso gas station for 14 years before venturing into the food industry. At Esso, he raised some $983,000 for CHEO, with a focus on burn victims.
“(Firehouse Subs) really spoke to me, because I've always had great friends in the fire department,” he says.
That same community spirit saw Patel and his Firehouse Subs team donate more than 600 meals to healthcare workers at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And as testing sites popped up, they drove to every location, handing out free drinks. Additionally, the team donated food to charities such as Ronald McDonald House.
“We sent in all our firefighter friends with minibikes and fire trucks, to put a smile on the kids’ faces,” Patel says.
Bringing Christmas cheer
With Christmas around the corner, Patel and his team are working hard to keep spirits high. For the past two years, they took part in Help Santa Toy parades, which is run by the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association.
“This year, there's no parade, so we're working with the Ottawa firefighters to get our restaurants to collect toys,” Patel says. At all three locations, toys are placed underneath a Christmas tree to be distributed through the Salvation Army.
Additionally, Patel and his team plan to deliver cookies to first responders on Christmas Eve.
“We’re like little elves,” he jokes, crediting his grandmother for instilling in him the importance of giving back.
“(She) always told me, ‘Never stop giving. Because the day you stop, that's the day you stop growing,’” he recalls.
The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.
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