Peter Cancro, Jersey Mike's founder and CEO, was featured on CNBC's Squawk Box over the weekend, discussing the brand's longevity, growth plans and challenges with host Joe Kernen.

Cancro bought his first unit at age 17. The company began franchising in 1987 and now includes about 560 units in 31 states.

He said when the company was created 56 years ago, the owners didn't realize they were offering something healthy at the time, but they were, something that has helped with the company's longevity.

Healthier fare, Cancro said, is here to stay.

In discussing the challenges of owning a business through economic booms and busts, he said the recession of 1991 was the worst the company has been through because many banks in Jersey Mike's markets were closing.

"Financing is always an issue. People always have to borrow money to open business," he said.

Cancro has optimism in the current economic environment, and said financing is starting to "loosen up."

Consequently, Jersey Mike's has ambitious growth plans, and anticipates opening 120 new stores this year and 200 more next year.

"We expect to be at 1,000 units in the next three to four years," Cancro said.

Watch his full interview here.

Read more about operations management.

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