When Angel Rosales joined Togo’s as a store manager in 1999, he did not expect to become a franchisee. Now, not only is Rosales a franchisee (two times over, with one store in Pasadena and another in Monterey Park), he represents the interests of all franchisees to the brand’s corporate team as a member of the Brand Advisory Council.
Before Rosales was hired at Togo’s, he owned a mom-&-pop coffee shop inside a bowling alley outside Los Angeles. When the bowling alley was bought out in 1999, Rosales had to close the coffee shop. To help him back on his feet, Rosales’s friend Allen Rosansky, a Togo’s owner in Pasadena, offered him a job as store manager. Rosales accepted and was quickly running the show.
“Allen knew my experience, so he allowed me to really take charge,” said Rosales. “I ran the day-to-day operations, paperwork, hiring and firing, all of the store-level operations.”
In 2006, Rosansky decided to retire, and he was determined to have Rosales take over.
“Things were going well with the restaurant, but he was ready to retire,” Rosales said. “I hadn’t been planning on becoming an owner, but he made me a good offer, and he had all the details and numbers worked out. It was just a no-brainer. I knew everything about the store, including the volume and projections, so I knew it was a great opportunity.”
After Rosales purchased the store, he quickly began setting goals for himself as an owner. One of those goals was to become an active member of the Togo’s community.
“I set about getting involved with the franchise in every way I could,” said Rosales. “I went to corporate meetings, manager meetings, franchisee meetings—anything I could get into. I wanted to become recognized as a leader within the system, and I wanted to help make decisions that would affect the brand.”
Eventually, Rosales’s efforts paid off when he was asked by an Executive Leadership Team member to join the Brand Advisory Council.
“I was excited,” Rosales said. “I like to see the decisions that corporate was making, and this was an opportunity not just to observe, but to take an active role in making those decisions.”
As a BAC member, Rosales represents the interests of franchisees to the Togo’s corporate team. Rosales says the council is a product of the franchise’s efforts to grow the brand around the franchisees, and not the other way around.
“The corporate team is so eager to work with franchisees. The attitude is that we, the franchisees, know what’s going on with the brand and customers better than anyone, so our input is essential for any operational changes Togo’s is considering.”
Rosales has learned to split his focus between his own restaurant and the concerns of the franchisee community, and that requires meeting regularly with other Togo’s owners.
“We have co-ops where I’ll meet with local franchisees and discuss any issues and concerns that anyone is having, it’s a totally open forum,” Rosales said. “I’ll take everything from those meetings and bring them to the BAC, and the corporate team is always eager to hear what we have to say. They don’t come with their own agenda.”
Rosales’s efforts to reach out to his fellow franchisees and to the corporate team is an extension of what he does as an owner. The multi-unit franchisee—Rosales acquired his second Togo’s a year and a half ago and has plans to open a third soon—believes that success as a Togo’s franchisee requires reaching out to the community and building relationships.
“I have really strong relationships with our guests,” Rosales said. “I believe that’s the most important thing as a store owner. Our product is great and the brand is strong, the only thing that’s left for us to focus on the customer.”
Rosales has made his Togo’s locations staples of their communities by building strong relationships. Rosales’s Togo’s regularly host and contribute to fundraisers, participate in community service, and host community events.
“Togo’s is not a cookie-cutter store,” Rosales said. “Each store has to adapt to its neighborhood and really work to become an integral part of the community. People don’t see us as this big faceless chain, they see us for what we are, which is a group of small business owners trying to offer something special to our communities.”
As a member of the Togo’s BAC, Rosales applies his philosophy of community integration to the entire franchise system, cultivating an open dialogue between the corporate team and franchisees. For Rosales, that open dialogue is what sets Togo’s apart from other franchise brands.
“We recently had our annual convention, and each year some of our franchisees are given awards and honors, but it goes both ways,” Rosales explained. “We honor and award the corporate team members as well. That’s just one example of the way that franchise is designed to encourage mutual respect and recognition at every opportunity. I don’t think you’ll find that in many other franchises."