Established premium sandwich brand Togo’s has certainly earned its status as a beloved provider of piled-high, big-and-juicy sandwiches since its 1971 founding in San Jose, California. With over 200 locations open or in development, Togo’s is well on its way to expanding its footprint to a size that rivals that of its fresh, ingredient-packed sandwiches.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that such a legacy brand has attracted a legacy franchisee in the form of multi-unit owner Ali Navabpour. Navabpour has been with the West Coast-inspired sandwich franchise for nearly two decades and operates two locations in Fremont, part of California’s Bay Area. Interestingly, Navabpour opted to make the switch to fast-casual food service after 21 years in the IT industry.
“After just over 20 years working as an IT professional, I decided to retire from that industry,” said Navabpour. “After I retired, I started working as an IT consultant with Dunkin’ Brands, which, at the time, owned Togo’s. I became familiar with Togo’s during that time and started thinking that it might be a business opportunity that would let me have the lifestyle and income I was looking for, while still providing exciting learning opportunities, too.”
Navabpour signed on for his first location in 1990, opening a second location in 2017. He said that, in his time as an owner, he’s learned that successful Togo’s franchisees must have a distinct passion for what they do.
“You need to have lots of passion and lots of perseverance and motivation. You must be hands-on and hardworking,” said Navabpour. “There have been challenges I’ve faced, but over time, those became opportunities for growth and learning. This business has definitely provided me with what I wanted.”
Another exciting opportunity facing Navabpour, as well as the whole Togo’s franchise system, is the recent rollout of a holistic brand revitalization strategy known as Togo’s 3.0. The initiative involves several exciting components including: redesigned restaurants and a refreshed color palette; POS ordering kiosks in renovated stores; third-party delivery partnerships with couriers like DoorDash; hot sandwiches thanks to the introduction of a new combination convection oven; and a Speed Line kitchen system that streamlines sandwich prep by leveraging an assembly line-style approach.
Both of Navabpour’s Togo’s locations have been modernized and streamlined thanks to Togo’s 3.0, and the longstanding franchisee couldn’t be happier.
“Before Togo’s 3.0, we weren’t as relevant in the industry as we deserved to be,” said Navabpour. “Our look and operating system were outdated. Now, it’s like a day-and-night change.”
Navabpour added that he absolutely recommends that all Togo’s franchisees endorse the rollout.
“I believe it’s essential to the franchisee community to make the switch to this 3.0 version. It makes us very competitive,” Navabpour said.
Since remodeling his locations almost two months ago, Navabpour shared that he has seen a distinctly positive reaction.
“I see the positive reactions from employees, from customers—they all love it!” Navabpour said. “In particular, my employees are enjoying the new operation system much more than the old one. Sales and customer count have both gone up, and we’ve seen a lot of new faces who had never come into the store before. Overall, we’ve enjoyed very positive results.”
Even with his sights set on the future—thanks to the momentum being laid by Togo’s 3.0—Navabpour can clearly remember what has inspired him to continue to grow with the brand.
“When I first joined, what inspired me was the Togo’s name and the product—the product that we have in the industry is very popular,” explained Navabpour. “Today in 2019, we still make sure that we’re ‘true to the sandwich’ in everything we do. I’m excited to see the new management that has come onboard, the new concepts coming out and all the ways we’re growing. I wanted to grow with a brand that was equally excited to expand.”
Asked how he defines success since becoming a Togo’s franchisee, Navabpour was emphatic.
“Success for me is to have repeat customers, to see my employees grow in their career and to see happy customers coming in,” said Navabpour. “That’s what drives me and what I will make sure continues as I continue with Togo’s.