A new era is coming to Quiznos

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Quiznos has faced quite a tough road over the past twelve years.

The chain, founded 40 years ago, once had around 5,000 stores. Since 2007, this figure has declined rapidly due to a variety of factors, including the Great Recession due to its large office footprint, an increasing number of fast-paced casual workers entering the space, and franchisee profitability issues.

Over the past four years, the chain has shrunk from about 500 U.S. stores to less than 300. Sales fell from about $180 million in 2018 to $160 million in 2019, a drop of 11.1 %, according to FoodserviceResults. Meanwhile, Quiznos has been acquired by REGO Restaurant Group, which is backed by High Bluff Capital Partners, a private equity firm specializing in transformational opportunities.

True to its reputation, High Bluff and REGO began a process of evolution in mid-2019 when they formed a partnership with Prophet, a business transformation consultant. The good news, according to REGO President Mark Lohmann, is that several members of the management team have worked with Prophet on several occasions at previous companies. So Quiznos knew they would get exactly what they wanted: a complete brand revitalization.

During the process, Prophet conducted in-depth market research and made recommendations deeply rooted in consumer knowledge. The end result is a refreshed store prototype with updated designs, new menu items and kitchen equipment, and drive-thru aspirations. The upgraded model, which was introduced to franchisees in late 2020, is set to debut in New Mexico in July.

The pandemic has done little to stop the momentum, Lohmann notes.

“We certainly throughout 2020 reviewed our positioning just to make sure there weren’t any major changes that we needed to implement,” he says. “But luckily what we found was that what we designed in partnership with Prophet was already a perfect fit with what our guests told us in 2019 and what our guests told us in 2020.”

On the card side, Quiznos has not hesitated to innovate in recent years. In 2019, the chain launched an LTO Pit-Smoked Brisket Sandwich, added a new Prime Rib Sandwich, and tested plant-based beef and corn sandwiches. Amid the COVID crisis, the brand rolled out “Quiznos Marketplace” when grocery supplies were tight, and introduced an LTO Cubano Sandwich and a Winter Turkey Feast Sandwich.

But with the refreshed identity, Lohmann says Mike Geisman, REGO’s director of cuisine and innovation, has outdone himself. The brand has several ideas in the testing phase, and many of them relate to new grills and flat-top fryers. For example, the grills will be used for both sandwiches and non-sandwich dishes, such as a cheesesteak platform, to add flair and flavor throughout the building. Deep fryers will allow Quiznos to offer unique items like donut holes and fries.

Lohmann says it’s premature to reveal too much about the menu, but he suggests the entire team was “blown away by the flavors coming out of our test kitchen.”

“We just need to go through the testing phase on this before we can commit to the exact elements that will be in the prototype,” explains the exec.

The aim is to adapt to changing consumer tastes. The same school of thought inspired the new design of Quiznos’ store, which Lohmann describes as a “contemporization”. The main idea was to keep the historical colors of the brand, but to modify them in such a way that the signals change. This includes an improved logo that hasn’t changed since 2001. Midway through this year, Quizno’s website and other digital channels will be updated to reflect the new branding.

Anand Gowda, founder of High Bluff Capital, foreshadowed these changes in early 2019. At the time, Gowda said RSQ that Quiznos enjoys nationwide equity in most major DMAs in the United States. In turn, this allows the brand to pursue unique marketing that other chains cannot, such as “quirky and edgy things that the customer might not expect”. His vision was to bring Quiznos back to the “hip, cool, interesting and cutting-edge concept it once was”.

This is exactly what the channel is aiming for with the new prototype.

“If you look at the new logo, we want it to be clean,” says Lohmann. “We want it to be simple, and we want it to be minimal to communicate the premium, high-quality elements of Quiznos that exist today and will continue to exist and only be amplified as we move forward in the future.”

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