Shawn Hooks of Firehouse Subs wins GRACE 2016 Restaurateur of the Year: Franchisee
For Shawn Hooks, it never gets old. It makes her day to look out into a Firehouse Subs dining room and see a family, a group of coworkers, a soccer team or a couple on their first date enjoying their meals.
“It is always special,” she says.
Hooks, a Firehouse Subs area representative since 2003, says she was inspired to approach Firehouse about a career after reading a newspaper article about the restaurant concept’s success.
The chain was small, but growing; she liked what she heard and left her corporate job to become a single-unit franchisee. Now, she’s a partner in Marietta’s Southern Interstate Group, the largest area representative development group in the Firehouse Subs system.
Southern Interstate has developed more than 175 Firehouse Subs restaurants in Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
“Most everyone I knew thought I was crazy … but not a day goes by that I don’t love it,” she says. “What I received in return has been so much more than I could have imagined.”
Hooks’ duties include selling Firehouse franchises, primarily in the Atlanta area, and providing marketing and operational support to franchisees. She’s also on the Firehouse Subs’ CEO Advisory Board.
She had a key role in developing Firehouse’s Atlanta market and the company’s charitable arm. Under her leadership, the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has awarded $677,000 in grants to first responders and public safety organizations.
She’s also passionate about the restaurant industry, itself.
“There are many different job opportunities in this business and exciting upward mobility for those who are passionate about the business,” she says. “I am proud of the fact that we offer jobs that teach important skill sets that can be used forever.”
As such, she fiercely advocates for restaurants, particularly in the area of government regulation in what she describes as a difficult labor market.
“We are not necessarily opposed to the concept of some of these laws but feel much of this should be left to the discretion of the businesses based on the financial and operational model of the restaurant,” she says.
Hooks, who considers her greatest accomplishment to be her own personal development, says she benefits from mentoring and support from her franchisor and business partners.
“I started out knowing very little about restaurants or owning a business,” she says. “I am so proud to work with such a supportive, inspiring group – both Firehouse of America and our franchise community. And of course, my wonderful children and husband, who support me every single day no matter how crazy life gets.”
The recipe for restaurants’ success, she says, is a positive attitude, putting customers first, serving fantastic food in a clean space with a great location and strong employee development.
Hooks says restaurants have a significant role in societies.
“Our CEO always says that we could be the best thing that happens to a person on any given day,” she says. “You never know what their circumstances are, or what they are going through personally.” – KH