In honor of Family Day on February 21, we are recognizing and honoring some of our Canada Firehouse Subs franchisees who work side by side with their families.

Learn about how former police officer Steve Panella and former firefighter Olimpia Panella own and operate four Firehouse Subs restaurants across Ontario – while raising four beautiful children with another one on the way!

Tell us about your family dynamic.

Our family dynamic is fairly normal; Olimpia and I are married and have four children with one more on the way. Five kids and four restaurants, please pray for us! Dior is 13 years old, Cassius is five, Silas is three, while Ezra is two. We have one daughter and three sons with a fourth boy coming March 2022.

How long ago did you venture into restaurant ownership with your family? 

We joined the Firehouse Subs family approximately four and a half years ago. Olimpia has actually been pregnant or with a newborn during each of our restaurant openings. We hope we can continue that trend this year.

What’s your favorite part about working together? 

I can't speak for Olimpia, but what I enjoy the most is having the opportunity to spend time with her everyday! Olimpia is an amazing person. She not only makes my life better, she makes me a better person. With four kids – soon to be five – it can be difficult to find time to be alone and working together helps us achieve that.

If you have children, are they involved in your restaurant at all? 

Our kids are all too young to work in the restaurant; however, each of them has been part of our restaurant openings by either helping with handing out flyers or greeting guests. Our daughter Dior is excited to start working in the restaurant when she turns 14 this April!

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about owning and operating four restaurants with your family? 

It really becomes a part of your life and that is why you have to choose a brand that is relevant and important to you. As a family, we spend a lot of time in our restaurants, with the people involved and displaying our brand within our community.

What activities do you enjoy doing together outside of your restaurants? 

We have to get creative with our kids and all the restrictions that have been put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have definitely gravitated towards going on local day trips to new places, hiking and just walking around seeing the sights.

What advice do you have for families who work together?  

Make sure to draw boundaries! It is easy to have everything kind of run together and work is all that you talk about; it really can consume your life. Divide up the responsibilities according to people's strengths and interests, and then genuinely trust that it will be done.

What does your ideal Family Day look like? (can be answered separately since it may differ)

We plan to go to a park or on a hike somewhere local. We will grab lunch at one of our Firehouse Subs restaurants and then make our way to Olimpia’s parents to spend some time with more family and enjoy dinner.

What are each of your favorite Firehouse Subs? 

Steve’s favorite sub is the Italian, while Olimpia enjoys the Beef and Cheddar Brisket with sauteed onion and tomatoes. Their eldest daughter, Dior Panella, loves the Pastrami Reuben. Last but not least, Cassius, Silas and Ezra Panella favor the kids’ turkey with provolone and mayo!