A lot has changed since Chairman and President Larry Raikes and Vice President Mitch Raikes founded Larry’s Giant Subs shop 30 years ago. Disappointed with the quality of submarine sandwiches available to them in Florida, the two brothers longed for the hearty, robust subs they were accustomed to in their hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.
The Raikes opened their first Larry’s Giant Subs in 1982 and incorporated into the company logo the image of King Kong on the Empire State Building, holding a giant sandwich as a tribute to their home state and their larger-than-life sandwiches.
Today, Larry’s Giant Subs has five corporate stores and about 80 franchise locations in six states, and it continues to expand geographically and by number of stores each year. Over time, its restaurants have grown more lavish in decor; some are large enough to fit a 14-foot gorilla in the middle of the dining area, which attracts locals and tourists.
Other New York memorabilia adorns the walls, and its corporate flatbed truck features the historic black-and-white photo of 11 construction workers perched on a 20-foot beam during a lunch break, except in this life-sized version, one of the men is holding a Larry’s giant sub while his coworkers admire it. “It’s our tribute to the working man,” Mitch Raikes says.
But no matter how giant Larry’s Giant Subs grows, the company will always be committed to “serving great food with integrity” by using only the freshest, quality ingredients, he maintains. For instance, it is one of the only sub chains to use Black Angus USDA Choice roast beef with no injections. Its turkey and chicken breasts are hand-roasted, hand-packed and 97 percent fat-free. It buys extra lean-meat products like National Deli pastrami and corned beef brisket, and it has its own line of ham called Raikes Farms.
Larry’s Giant Subs sources the finest cheeses, freshest vegetables and highest-quality toppings from coast to coast because, as a national franchise, it can serve premium products at affordable prices. Its award-winning Italian bread is from Costanzo’s Bakery in Buffalo, and it recently began selling cheesecake from Manhattan’s Carnegie Deli.
‘Dream Come True’
Larry’s Giant Subs has been successful as a franchise because of the attention to detail the Raikes brothers put into every store opening. “Larry and myself are involved in each and every franchise opening because we feel like we can do things better if we give it our personal attention rather than have a big team look after things,” Mitch Raikes says. “When interested franchisees come to us, we will look at the demographics in the area to pick out the best locations we can. We definitely want the franchisees to be happy with the location, so when we’re all happy about it, we’ll start the process of getting a lease. We’ll help them negotiate a lease, and the new franchisee will bring a manager and a few employees to train in our corporate shop for 30 days.”
When a Larry’s Giant Subs is ready to open, the Raikes send two corporate trainers to work at the new location for seven days to continue training and making sure everything is running smoothly. “We like to visit the stores and do inspections to make sure they’re compliant with our franchise specs, such as using the right products and having updated menus,” Mitch Raikes says. “We like to keep in touch with everybody and see how they’re doing.”
In an emergency, franchisees are welcome to call Larry Giant Subs’ hotline where they can reach Larry or Mitch at any time of day. Mitch Raikes recalls a time when one of the franchise stores was broken into in the middle of the night. When its owner was not available, he drove over to the store and spoke to the police himself.
As Larry’s Giant Subs grows, newfound obligations and responsibilities may appear giant at times to the two brothers who continue to run the day-to-day operations. “We don’t mind it,” Raikes confides. “Before this, Larry was a bartender and I worked in the steel mill. Being able to work for yourself and make a decent living out of it is a dream come true not only for our franchisees, but for us, too.”