Togo’s Owner Ali Navabpour Finds a Boost with New Pay-First Model
Togo’s Owner Ali Navabpour Finds a Boost with New Pay-First Model

The Bay Area franchisee is among the first to upgrade to the sandwich brand’s operational redesign

Last year Togo’s unveiled three strategic priorities aimed at improving the customer and franchisee experience and strengthening the brand’s position in its segment. Those priorities were improving the menu, increasing off-site ordering capabilities, and implementing a pay-first ordering experience.

Ali Navabpour, a multi-unit franchisee in Fremont, California, was one of the first Togo’s owners to upgrade one of his restaurants with the pay-first model, and the results have been encouraging for him and the brand.

“It paid off immediately,” Navabpour said. “The pay-first design has vastly improved the customer experience, and it has cut operational costs as well.”

Most Togo’s restaurants use a pay-last model, where customers place an order at one station, watch as their meal is prepared at the next station, and finally pay at the third station—the cashier—when their food is ready. The pay-first model combines the first and third stations, allowing customers to pay as they order at a single station, saving time and reducing communication errors.

The Togo’s restaurant that Navabpour upgraded to pay-first is his second unit, opened just 7 months ago. Navabpour said he decided to switch his new location to pay-first quickly after opening to better compete with nearby restaurants.

“We are in a high-traffic area with a lot of competition,” Navabpour said. “We were doing well, but you can’t rely on the food alone. People are in a hurry, so I wanted to do everything possible to make our customer experience easier and more appealing than the other restaurants around.”

So five months after opening his second store, Navabpour reached out to Togo’s corporate team and asked to become one of the first restaurants to upgrade to the new model. The corporate team sent out a representative to look at Navabpour’s operation, and they decided he was a strong candidate and quickly approved the upgrade.

“It was a very fast process,” Navabpour said. “They have an extremely efficient execution in place, so the burden on my store was minimal. We had to shut down for a single day while they came in and made the structural improvement. That’s it. I was up and running again the next day.”

According to Navabpour, the most immediate benefit of the new system is the speed with which his restaurant can service customers.

“We are so much faster now,” Navabpour said. “We serve our customers in under two minutes on average. That’s from the time they walk in until the time they walk out. That’s much faster than almost any other restaurant can serve their customers.”

Because pay-first combines the first and third stations from the original model, it also reduces operational costs by requiring fewer team members.

“With the old system, we had to train our employees to cover each station, so they had to learn how to work the register, make every kind of sandwich, and take orders,” said Navabpour. “Now the whole system is much more streamlined. We have one person working the register and taking orders, so we can put our best customer-service people in that station and we can have our fastest, most consistent sandwich makers focused solely on that. So not only is our overhead reduced by the smaller staff, we’ve also reduced food waste because there are fewer mistakes and inconsistencies in the sandwich preparation.”

Navabpour is now eager to roll out the pay-first system to his other Togo’s restaurant, and he’s hoping to open a third store soon, which he plans to open with pay-first implemented on day one.

“I’ve been in the Togo’s system a long time, and this is one of the most exciting changes I’ve seen,” Navabpour said. “I think it’s time the entire system makes the move to pay-first. It will increase the profitability of every store, and it’s going to make running a Togo’s even easier for every owner.”