As consumer preferences are evolving, so too is California-based sandwich franchise Togo’s. While the rest of the packed sandwich segment rests on its laurels, continuously settling for ideas as stale as their bread, Togo’s has chosen the path of innovation, leaving its competitors in a pile of crumbs.
2019 is chock-full of new initiatives for the brand, beginning with the rollout of a new store design and operating model. Togo’s president Glenn Lunde explained that the remodels involve implementing new interior design elements to make locations more engaging for customers and reinforce the brand’s quality positioning and its emphasis on big portions with value prices. The revamped operating model involves implementing a new speed-line platform: an assembly-line approach to preparing sandwiches.
Both of these new elements are exciting brand developments that were adopted with the goal of increasing franchisee success across Togo’s entire 200-plus unit system, Lunde said.
“Togo's is a longstanding, respected brand that’s reinventing itself for today’s consumer,” Lunde said. “Consumers are looking for convenience more than ever, and Togo’s new store concept and design cater to that. Our speed-line operating system provides a new way of delivering food to the customer faster and more accurately. Where the legacy operating model is deli-style, our stores are transitioning to an assembly-line approach, creating a process that's now much more relevant.”
Not only does the new service model make it easier to get your food at Togo’s—it makes it easier to work there, too. Lunde explained that the strategic change was adopted in accordance with Togo’s brand mission: to be the best place to eat for guests, the best place to work for employees and the best place to own for franchisees.
“We always think of those three things when making brand changes. The speed-line is good for our customers, employees and franchise owners because it involves less of a labor component,” Lunde pointed out.
Also on deck for 2019 are a series of new menu additions, starting with the system-wide launch of Togo’s first-ever hot sandwich line. The menu upgrade was made possible by adding a new energy-efficient combination oven to every Togo’s kitchen, a move that CMO Anna Nero sees as a huge step forward for the brand.
“Today, all of our competitors offer a true hot sandwich, so this helps bring Togo’s top-of-mind,” she said. After the initial hot sandwich line rollout in April, the brand plans to debut a hot pretzel sandwich line and a subsequent hot chicken sandwich line in 2019, as well. “We’re making the combi-oven as hardworking as possible to make this investment extremely worthwhile for our franchisees,” Nero added.
Offering chicken as a protein will be new at Togo's in 2019. As the popularity of chicken continues to climb among consumers, Togo’s developed its menu in response. A whole line of hot sandwiches centered on chicken (buffalo chicken, chicken parmesan and chicken-bacon-ranch sandwiches among them) are poised to take the brand to another level this year.
“The new Togo's concept—its awesome design, hot sandwich platform, and versatile combi-oven—allows us to do a lot of things and opens up a whole new avenue for us,” Lunde noted, mentioning breakfast and side items as possible future developments for the brand.
Beyond revamping its operations model to better compete in the crowded sandwich segment, Togo’s has also been quick to embrace technology to amplify convenience for customers. To this end, the brand has invested in a new app and website in addition to establishing a partnership with online and mobile ordering platform Olo and a host of third-party delivery platforms.
“Third-party delivery is a big talking point for us and all restaurants right now,” Nero said. “Over the last year, we've been cultivating those relationships so that when new franchisees enter the system or current franchisees want to expand, we are inundating them with information about the various services.” Nero said Togo’s tests all emerging third-party delivery services through its corporate stores so that the brand can present franchisees with enough information to make the best possible decision for them.
Togo’s franchisee support expands beyond the third-party delivery arena, as well.
“In discussion with others in the franchise community, I repeatedly hear remarks about how much time we spend with our franchisees,” Nero said. “We are constantly commended for how thorough of a walkthrough we do with prospective and new franchisees going through the process. We pride ourselves on being super responsive to franchisees, too. Despite having over 200 locations, Togo’s is a really tight community. There’s a lot more personalized service and support provided at the unit level, which isn’t something easily found elsewhere in the segment.”
As the brand dives into this year of significant change, Togo’s recognizes that unparalleled franchisee support is an integral aspect of successful innovation. By being a resource for its franchise system, Togo’s will continue to remain head and shoulders above the competition for years to come.
“Togo's is showing the colors of the most innovative,” Lunde said. “We won't ever get complacent, this year being just one strong example. The sandwich category isn't is known for innovation, so Togo's is going to push that consistently, in 2019 and beyond.”