Togo’s was always near and dear to CEO Glenn Lunde’s heart. In fact, one of the first Togo’s locations opened right near his high school, so he grew up eating the food there.
“I always loved Togos,” said Lunde. “I’ve been working in the industry for 20 years with other restaurants like Taco Bell and Panda Express—but when this came up, it was a unique opportunity for me to reconnect with a brand I grew up with.”
Togo’s felt like a special place for Lunde; from interacting with the employees to seeing the pride they took in the food they served, Lunde enjoyed the positive atmosphere of the piled-high sandwich brand. “Togo’s always had the best sandwiches and the biggest portions,” he said. “And that’s still true today, which is what makes us different. We never try to skimp on anything.”
Still, a lot has changed since Togo’s was founded in 1971. The brand is currently undergoing an exciting renaissance as part of the strategic Togo’s 3.0 initiative, with new, modern store designs, technology such as ordering kiosks, third-party delivery partnerships and even state-of-the-art convection ovens that open up the menu to more hot sandwich options.
“The redesign is based on the idea that if we built a Togo's today and it was a brand new concept, how would we design it? The great thing is we’d keep our food exactly the same,” said Lunde. “We designed the new Togo’s in a way that would deliver the same great food, but provide the speed and convenience that people expect today. Whether a customer wants to dine in or carry out, and whether they order on the app, online or through a third party delivery service, we needed to address all those ways customers access Togo's today in ways they didn’t even 10 years ago.”
At its core, Togo’s believes that happy employees make happy guests, so the brand’s focus has always been on putting people first. To attract the best employees possible, Togo’s considered how the store remodel could make working there easier and more enjoyable.
“We’ve made the work environment more employee-friendly,” said Lunde. “We want to focus on how Togo’s is a fun place to work: It’s really easy, you don't have late hours and you don’t have to go home smelling like french fries. All those things contribute to attracting employees who can dive in and start contributing right away.”
That people-forward recruitment strategy and subsequent support system benefit franchisees in the long run.
“We know that for franchisees, attracting the best talent is the most important thing,” added Lunde. “They don’t want to compete for employees.”
Togo’s doesn’t stop there. The franchise supports owners with ongoing training every step of the way, from new product launches to joint franchisee/general manager capacity building. Because of this, Togo’s refers not to the brand’s corporate office, but to its support center.
“We invited 30 pairs to central locations for three-hour training and gave them materials to take back to their whole crew, like training booklets and videos on USB drives. We want GMs to be trained directly through the support center, giving them the tools they need and then cascading that training down to their crew.”
This transparency throughout every level of leadership helps bring cohesiveness to Togo’s that everyone can appreciate—and benefit from.
“Employees need to know not just how we’re doing something, but also why we’re doing it, so that they can get excited and do the best job they can,” said Lunde. “The more information and training we provide, the better chance they have of being successful.”
The culture of putting people first all originated with Togo’s founder. “All those key principles were passed down by the founder, Mike Cobler,” said Lunde. “That’s been an important thing for us: making sure it starts with the culture, why we are here and how Togo's started. There’s still a founder, he’s still around, and he’s still a part of Togo's.”
While Cobler founded Togo’s nearly 50 years ago, franchisees who join the brand now can feel like they’re getting in at a stage of new beginnings.
“I think that right now is an exciting time for Togo’s because we are on the cusp of growth. So many things are happening,” said Lunde. “This is the time to get in early, when you can see, ‘Wow, look at what’s happening at Togo’s.’”
As Togo’s stores are remodeled, prospective franchisees are invited to visit the revamped locations and speak with franchisees. “There’s something tangible,” said Lunde. “This isn’t a presentation; it’s not a deck, it’s not just a vision. You can see everything in action right now.”