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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Nick Papanier Jr. started his two-decade-long career at PrimoHoagies while working for his father, Nicholas Papanier Sr., founder of the company’s first franchise location in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey.

Papanier Jr. worked alongside his father and friends from the neighborhood to build the foundation of what has grown into a beloved specialty sandwich franchise. In 2019, Papanier Jr. stepped up to lead the company as the CEO. Despite unprecedented challenges facing the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, PrimoHoagies opened 67 units in a single year, breaking previous growth records. Papanier Jr. led the company to over $48 million in sales in 2019 and over $55 million in 2020, the highest-grossing sales years ever. Sales are projected to reach $80 million in 2022.

While the numbers and metrics are nice, PrimoHoagies is successful because of its promise to serve the best sandwiches made with quality meats and cheeses in a friendly neighborhood atmosphere, the company said. In other words, the business does well when customers are happy.

“It may seem cliché, but a leader is only as good as the team they build around them,” Papanier Jr. said. “In franchising, when your goal is to grow to be the leader in your category, in our case specialty sandwiches, you have to have people surrounding you that have the same belief as I do in the goals we are going to reach. With that being said, you then have to be able to trust that team to get the work done, knowing you can’t do it all by yourself. I’ve had to learn to be patient and believe in the process that has brought us so much success.”

Papanier Jr. has received numerous accolades and recognitions, including a feature in the Philadelphia Business Journal as the Most Admired CEO in the Philadelphia Area. He has also been featured in Forbes and QSR magazines.

Papanier Jr.’s five-year plan includes growing the brand’s footprint and awareness nationally by developing 300 to 350 new locations. Some of those new markets include Texas, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and South Carolina. “Nick has shown over time that a strategic mindset and passion for your brand will result in growth, opportunity and accomplishment,” his team said.

Papanier Jr. has continued the charitable tradition of PrimoCares, founded by his father in 2014 to give back. Customers can participate through their neighborhood location, and funds raised help local children in need.

“We will not shy away from trying new things, and I will continue on the path I started to make PrimoHoagies the best specialty sandwich franchise that exists,” Papanier Jr. said. “I also believe in giving back and will continue to do so through our charity Primo Cares as well as other charitable organizations.”


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