In November, Togo’s held their annual franchisee convention in Los Angeles. The two-day event brought together team members from across the system to attend conferences and seminars and to celebrate some of the franchise’s top performers. Two of those top performers were Nick Radia and Deepak Aggarwal, who left the convention with Togo’s 2017 Rookie of the Year award for their SoCal Togo’s restaurant.
Since Radia and Aggarwal acquired their Togo’s location last year, volume at the store has increased by 19 percent, a significant increase for any franchisee and especially for two new owners operating their first Togo’s location, but Aggarwal said the brand was primed for growth when he and Radia arrived.
“Togo’s unveiled some significant operational changes last year, and we joined the brand just as those were rolling out,” said Aggarwal. “So we were able to get up and running with some really exciting operational improvements.”
But Radia and Aggarwal’s success is not simply a case of being in the right place at the right time. The partners brought to Togo’s a combination of financial acumen and restaurant experience that they believe gave them a strong head start.
Radia and Aggarwal met 8 years ago at an Indian restaurant that Aggarwal managed. Radia often stopped into the restaurant for a meal or drinks, and he and Aggarwal struck up a friendship. After a few years, both Aggarwal and Radia found themselves seeking the next stage in their career, and they decided to go into business together.
“I was working in finance, and I had recently quit my job in an accounting department,” Radia said. “Deepak was ready to leave the restaurant, and we figured that between his experience running the restaurant and my experience in finance, we could make a pretty strong partnership, and besides that, we just clicked on a personal level.”
Aggarwal and Radia began to look at business opportunities, and they quickly gravitated toward franchising.
“We wanted the support that a franchise could provide,” said Radia. “We looked at a number of different businesses, but we just kept coming back to the issue of support.”
Settled on franchising, Aggarwal and Radia began their search for a brand. To take advantage of Aggarwal’s restaurant experience, they decided to narrow their search to foodservice brands, and Togo’s soon stood out as a front-runner.
“Togo’s is a local brand, and there was one not far from us, so we decided to check it out,” Radia said. “We got in touch with their corporate team, and they invited us out to a discovery day. That’s where we really got excited about the brand.”
Aggarwal and Radia’s experience at the discovery day assured them that Togo’s could provide the level of support that had drawn the pair to franchising in the first place.
“The discovery day gave us a chance to get to know the corporate team, and we became really excited about what they had to offer,” said Aggarwal. “We got the sense that we could call corporate at any hour and they’d be there to help. We met with the executive team, and we asked a million questions, and they answered each one. It just made us very comfortable.”
The discovery day also gave Aggarwal and Radia a chance to learn about the operational improvements that would later contribute to their rapid early growth.
“We saw so much potential in the improvements they were making,” Radia said. “As a customer, I knew the quality of the product, but to see what the business was working on behind the scenes was really exciting, we could tell that the brand was preparing to grow.”
Aggarwal and Radia purchased their Togo’s location last winter. By the summer, they had become a pillar of their community.
“The Togo’s product is so strong, so we knew from the start that we could focus on being a customer-oriented operation,” Radia said. “We immediately started reaching out to the community. We did fundraisers and sponsored a soccer team, and we got involved with the local church. Those efforts, which are still a big focus for us, put us in good standing with the neighborhood, and we reached a lot of new customers who keep coming back.”
Aggarwal and Radia’s quick success with their Togo’s was assisted by the brand’s corporate team, to which the partners enjoyed open and constant access.
“We have a franchise business consultant who goes to any length to make sure we are doing well, said Radia. “That’s the attitude of the entire corporate team. We can call for help at any hour, and we get a response. And we hear the same thing from every other franchisee.”
“It’s been so easy for us to connect with the leadership team,” Aggarwal added. “We can send an email to Glenn [Lunde, Togo’s president], and he’ll personally respond. There is a genuine personal investment from people at every level in the company. That’s been so important to us.”
Equally important, says Radia, is employee management.
“There is so much turnover in this industry, it’s essential that you keep your employees happy. They are the face of the restaurant. We’ve made employee satisfaction a top priority in our operation, and that’s done a lot to ensure our success.”
As Radia and Aggarwal approach a year with Togo’s, they are eager to keep growing with the brand.
“We’re hoping to open a second store within the next three months,” Radia said. “We’re just looking for the right location.”
When they find the location they’re looking for, Aggarwal and Radia hope to replicate their success with their first store by again focusing on their community.
“As a business owner, it’s so important to be an active part of your community,” Radia said. “A Togo’s franchisee could run their restaurant as an absentee owner, but they aren’t going to grow. You’ve got to keep your eyes and ears open and stay in touch with what’s going on in the neighborhood; that’s where your customers are.”
“There are other businesses out there, and if you don’t take care of your customers, they will,” said Aggarwal. “Togo’s has built an amazing product and a really strong brand, it’s just up to us to take care of the customers. If we do that, then we’re going to keep growing."