By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Editor’s note: This is another article in a series that profiles local small businesses that are growing.
Got a hunger for a footlong? Loren Eash can help you out.
Eash is the operator of six Subway restaurants in the Goshen area and he will soon add a seventh location on Kercher Road as part of a new convenience store being built there.
Eash is one of thousands of franchisees operating 37,581 Subway restaurants in 100 countries. He made an investment in four Subway restaurants in Elkhart in 2000 after selling the Pizza Depot restaurant he operated in Millersburg. A year later he bought four more Subways. After selling and adding restaurants, he has settled in with the seven locations.
To operate the restaurants Eash employs 80 people, which includes on-site managers and an operational manager, all of whom he relies on to keep Eash & Co. LLC operating smoothly.
“That’s essential in any business,” Eash said while finishing off a sandwich for lunch at his Pike Street restaurant. “I have learned through experience. It has not always been straightforward. There have been some mistakes.
“Essentially that is what it is. I would say that most multi-unit franchisees set up their stores the same way. It is nothing I figured out. And it didn’t come from Subway either. It just makes sense that if someone is knowledgeable and I can trust them, for an operations manager that is what you need.”
A business adage is that “timing is everything,” and Eash acknowledges that he bought into Subway at the right time back in 2000.
“Since then the growth in Subway has been way more than anyone expected,” he said.
“Jared,” Eash said when answering the question why the Subway brand took off in the year he bought into it.
“Jared” is Jared Fogle, who was a student at Indiana University — Bloomington. Fogle has said he became obese due to eating fast food a lot and when he switched to eating 6-inch Subway sandwiches he lost weight. Subway learned of his dietary change and built a highly successful advertising campaign around him.
“Jared and I got into Subway at the same time,” Eash laughed. “I really benefitted. I got in at the right time.”
The company has also had very good success with its recent $5 foot long promotion, according to Eash.
“It was perfect timing. It came in the spring of ’08 when the economy started going south and people saw that as a good value,” Eash said.
Unlike some fastfood restaurants that turn over help quickly, employees at Eash’s restaurants have stuck with their jobs.
“Our turnover rate is getting lower and lower,”Eash said. He said he has had the same restaurant managers for the past four years.
“I have not had any trouble finding good help,” he said.
He takes a look at his staffing trends from time to time and he noticed that a third of his staff are either high school or college students, a third are in their second job, and a third have decided, “This is what I want to do,” he said.
“This stereotype of the fast food worker as a dead-end career is not true,” Eash said.
Autumn Hershberger is the manager of the Pike Street Subway. She has worked at the store for more than six years.
“It’s fun. At this store it is fast paced. It makes the time go by real fast,” she said while taking a break in the afternoon.
And a plus for Hershberger is her staff, which she appreciates. “I am lucky to have a friendly crew,” she said.
Her normal staff level consists of 15 employees.
Hershberger’s personal story is that she entered college wanting to be a teacher. She completed half of her coursework before deciding teaching wasn’t for her. Now, she’s just 24 years old and a restaurant manager. “I got a lucky opportunity,” she said.
Eash & Co. has a Goshen office and from there Eash travels to his stores, trying to get to each twice a week, and he also interacts with the corporate office in Connecticut.
He also works with a Subway development agent out of Fort Wayne. That office sends someone to all Subway restaurants in its district each month, according to Eash. Those visits are mostly to inform managers about promotions and pass on company information.
“Absolutely,” is Eash’s answer if he would recommend others join the Subway franchise system.
He said he is often asked by people if they could do what he does. His answer is based on what he described as good business sense.
“You have to have a good relationship with your bank or credit union. I couldn’t have done it without the credit union Interra’s support,” he said.
“Typically the question is ‘how can I do it?’” Eash said.
“My answer to them always starts out ‘you are doing it now. You are a small business. You have a job, you have expenses.’ It’s kind of intuative that you have to manage your expenses and not live beyond your means,” Eash said. “And you have to establish good credit. And be patient.”
Eash said he does not consider himself an entrepreneur because he believes an entrepreneure starts from scratch with an original idea and figures out all the details.
“For me it would be hard to sleep at night,” he laughed.
So he went with an established business, which he felt comfortable with.
The new store
When the new Kercher Road store opens, Eash said he will keep his restaurants inside the Wal-Mart Supercenter and the one next to Menard’s open. He said there will be a period of time when customers adjust to the new location, but experience has shown after a few months the overall customer draw will increase.
And for those who like to order a meal without getting out of their car, the good news will be that the Kercher Road restaurant will be the first Subway in Goshen to have a drive-through.