"Heating anything brings out the flavors in food products. I don't care what it is," Quiznos' founder once said. And they built a whole fast-casual sandwich franchise on that belief.
1. QUIZNOS WAS FOUNDED ON FINE-DINING EXPERIENCE.
In the 1970s, Chef Jimmy Lambatos served as executive chef at the Colorado Mine Co. steakhouse, where he cooked for the likes of Elvis and the Rolling Stones. He left in 1978 to open Footers, his own Italian restaurant. It was while running Footers that Lambatos developed the signature toasted subs as an homage to the sandwiches he grew up with in New York City and, in 1981, he launched Quiznos.
2. QUIZNOS' LONG-TIME CEO JOINED THE COMPANY AT JUST 22.
Rick Schaden opened a Quiznos franchise in the Denver area in 1987 when he was just 22, along with a little help from his father. Over the next few years, the father-son team acquired several more stores, and in 1991, the pair purchased the entire company from the founders. At just 26, Schaden became CEO of the company—a position he held till 2007.
3. IN 2005, QUIZNOS LAUNCHED A LINE OF GYMS.
The restaurant chain partnered with former pro wrestler and fitness guru Ray Wilson to launch a line of gyms called 123 Fitness, which focused on 30-minute exercise classes. At the time, Schaden said "Second only to serving great sandwiches that people love, franchising is a core competency at Quiznos … Partnering with Ray, who is known as the father of fitness, on a health club concept is a winning idea."
Unfortunately, by 2008, there were twice as many closed 123 Fitness clubs as there were open ones, and many of the franchisees faced bankruptcy.
4. QUIZNOS TOOK ON SUBWAY…
During the late '90s and early 2000s, Quiznos sat comfortably in second place among fast food sandwich joints—but far behind first-place Subway. Quiznos always maintained that their ingredients were of higher quality (to justify the higher price point), and in 2006 they launched their most aggressive advertising scheme against the sub behemoth. The campaign claimed that their Prime Rib Cheesesteak contained twice as much meat as Subway’s Cheesesteaks, and invited consumers to put their claims to the test.
"I feel so strongly that our new Prime Rib Cheesesteak is better in quality and abundance than Subway's that I am spreading the news to consumers and offering them a 100% satisfaction guarantee or they get a free sub from Quiznos,” then-CEO Schaden said at the time.
5. …AND LOST
Quiznos made a valiant effort to catch Subway, topping out at over 5000 locations in 2007. But the recession hit the slightly-more-upscale Quiznos far harder than Subway. While the $5 footlong boosted the latter’s business, Quizno’s sales and market share both dropped by more than 50 percent between 2008 and 2013, landing it behind not just Subway but also Jimmy John’s. Although the chain has recovered from having declared bankruptcy in 2014, there are currently only 1500 stores worldwide.
6. THE CHAIN IS LOOKING FOR NEW LIFE OVERSEAS.
There’s no way to sugar-coat Quiznos' struggles recently, but as the brand bounces back from bankruptcy they’ve got a new business plan in the works: conquer the overseas market. With thousands of domestic Quiznos locations shuttering in the past few years, the sandwich chain announced plans to replace them with new locations in Asia and in the Middle East where there’s high demand (but less competition) for American-style fare. Over the next decade, they plan to open 1500 restaurants in China and 100 more in Taiwan.
7. JIM PARSONS GOT HIS BIG BREAK—SORT OF—IN A QUIZNOS COMMERCIAL.
Long before he was the highest-paid actor on television, Jim Parsons was in need of a gig—and he found one playing a man raised by wolves, in a 2003 Quiznos commercial. It didn’t exactly make him a star. “But, it broke me into the rent stratosphere,” Parsons told CBS in 2012. “It did get some attention. It certainly gave me a conversation piece. Half the battle, and I'm not kidding, in certain casting sessions and everything, are—well, you have something interesting to say. And then if you've suckled at the teat of a Siberian Husky, you have something interesting to say. Maybe not good, but it's interesting."
8. QUIZNOS HAD A PAIR OF SHORT-LIVED, MEME-TASTIC MASCOTS CALLED SPONGEMONKEYS.
They don’t really look like monkeys at all, actually. But that’s what the bizarre, heavily photoshopped, musical marsupials who appeared in a couple of Quiznos commercials in 2004 are called. Quiznos didn’t create the quirky creatures; that honor goes to British web animator Joel Veitch, who posted a video of the pair singing about the moon on his website in 2003. An employee at Quiznos' ad firm saw the video, and thought it had just the right level of attention-grabbing weirdness for a new campaign.
9. QUIZNOS' CEO INADVERTENTLY DISSED THE MCRIB.
Talk about punching up. In 2012, then-brand new CEO Stuart Mathis made headlines when he said McDonald's cult-favorite McRib was "not a great sandwich, in my view." His disparaging remarks were actually taken largely out of context; Mathis meant to praise McDonald’s smart marketing of the sandwich. The full quote includes a desire to emulate the McRib’s success. “McDonald's has done a masterful job with the McRib sandwich. It's not a great sandwich, in my view,” Mathis said. “But they've been very effective in putting it in and taking it out, and it creates buzz. We'll try to take the same approach, for example, with our lobster sandwich, which is very popular."
10. QUIZNO’S TOASTY.TV IS FULL OF VIRAL HITS.
One area in which the company has been super successful lately? Online viral marketing. Last year, Quiznos launched Toasty.TV, a platform for original and curated content. Their slick, high-budget parody videos were an instant hit. Their first video, "House of Thrones" (a Game of Thrones meets House of Cards parody), has over 2 million views, and later videos like "Mad X-Men" and "Startourage" have well over a million. But the videos have driven traffic not just to the brand’s YouTube page—in the first year after Toasty.TV launched, Quiznos' store locator traffic was up 76 percent.
11. BURNING MAN MIGHT SUE QUIZNOS.
A Toasty.TV video that was posted last month took aim at the Burning Man festival—and it looks like the festival might fight back. It’s not the mocking tone of the parody that Burning Man took issue with, it’s Quiznos’ corporate ethos. Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said in the Reno Gazette-Journal, "We are pretty proactive about protecting our 10 principles, one of which is decommodification. We get quite a number of requests each year from companies wanting to gift participants with their product or to capture imagery or video of their products at the event, and we turn them all down." His actual beef? That Quiznos used the idea of Burning Man to sell subs. But, funny 'cause it's true? That Insta filter was dope.