June 1, 2018

How Two College Buddies Came to Own a National Restaurant Franchise

College towns are ripe with dive bars, burger joints and a variety of other food options for students who just moved out—free from parents’ rules and unfortunately, their home cooking too. The latter presents quite a pickle for some students, who tire easily of dorm cooking and ramen noodles. Luckily, Ashley Morris and Jason Smylie, CEO and President of Capriotti’s respectively, quickly found their go-to restaurant while attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

From the first time Ashley tasted a cheesesteak from Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, he would never forget that mouthwatering, perfectly spiced, obsession inducing sandwich. Good thing he wouldn’t have to. Ashley was originally introduced to Capriotti’s by Jason—who favors the Bobbie, a Thanksgiving feast on a bun. It was a match made in heaven.


The pair loved the sandwiches so much they now own the company. Not only is this a feat for young entrepreneurs in their 30s, but the pair has built upon the great Capriotti’s heritage and legacy and expanded the reach of our mind-blowing sandwiches.

A Sandwich for Real Turkey Lovers

Ashley and Jason officially bought into the business in 2003 as franchise partners. After a year, they opened a second location in Las Vegas and then bought the original location they frequented during college. Then, just five years from their initial store, in 2007, they bought all of Capriotti’s. The brand totaled 43 locations at the time.

Photo courtesy of: Jason Kepler
Photo courtesy of: Jason Kepler


After all this time, Ashley still craves the cheesesteak and has upheld the values of high-quality ingredients and incredible sandwiches. For example, the fan favorite and Jason’s sandwich of choice, The Bobbie, continues to depend upon the loving process of roasting whole turkeys each day. Hence, it’s a sandwich for “real turkey lovers.”

The pair made operational changes as well. The infrastructure was lacking before the college buddies took over. There was no corporate office, just a few employees and a handbook. Ashley and Jason focused on internal growth before looking to expand the franchise network. It has all paid off. At the beginning of 2018, the brand had grown to more than 100 locations.

Best Buddy Dynamic

Working with your friends can seem like a dream come true, but many find business partnerships result in tension that test the friendship. For Ashley and Jason, though, their dynamic is part of their success. Not only were they college roommates, but the two met around age 10 in Las Vegas and have been inseparable since. Ashley handles high-level strategy and Jason manages to day-to-day leadership duties.

UNLV Honors College alumni honoree Jason Smylie at Capriotti's Downtown Summerlin 11010 Lavender Hill Drive Las Vegas, NV 89135 Portraits for use Alumni Awards event materials February 16, 2017 (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services)

The partnership allows for a healthy work and leadership relationship. The pair still makes sure to set time aside to collaborate and put their long-time passion into the brand. They meet up, just the two of them, at least once every other week to discuss the health of any current initiatives and evaluate where things are going next.

Passionate leadership can make or break a brand. And for Capriotti’s, the leadership’s enthusiasm and craving for their own menu is part of the recipe for success. The brand has grown and developed under their leadership and continues to push into new markets and create new super fans across the country.

To learn more about franchise opportunities in a rapidly-growing industry, contact us at 702-374-4746 or bruce.evans@capriottis.com.