The made-to-order sandwich category has been in long-term decline, but that trend was bucked with the advent of Subway.

As noted in British Baker, 9 March, pg 4, the 2007 Key Note Bread and Bakery report says high street bakers increasingly view sandwich chains and cafés as the main competition, ahead of in-store bakeries and plant bread, and many are following suit with made-to order sandwich offerings.

"The concept is successful because there’s an argument to say made-to-order sandwiches are superior to, or fresher than, pre-packed," says Quiznos UK’s head of franchise development Phil Craston. "Made-to-order is a trend that’s here to stay and successes elsewhere in the market have created a business opportunity for us."

With Subway on track for 2,010 outlets by 2010 in the UK, does Quiznos hope to compete on this scale of growth? "Certainly Subway are ahead of us," says Craston, "but success is not just achieved through numbers and that is not a figure we’re looking to achieve. If a franchise business is all about volume, you can miss some of the finer points of managing the brand and maintaining the brand integrity.

following a successful lead

"Subway had a head start because they were the first into the market. When a company has explosive expansion it does create an environment and diversity follows. It’s only natural that companies will follow in the wake of another successful company."

With 25 UK outlets now in place, Quiznos has some way to go to match its massive success in the US, where the multi-billion dollar franchise recently appointed former Burger King CEO Greg Brenneman to run the business. There, the chain is adding around 1,000 stores a year, with a total of some 5,000 outlets today.

Originally, Quiznos was a chain of pizza restaurants in and around Denver. It switched to making toasted subs after it ran out of pizza bases one day and resorted to serving toppings on baguette bread instead. These quickly proved more popular than the pizzas and, from 18 restaurants in 1991, the firm built up a 1,000-store empire by 2000.

outlet plans

In 2001, Kazem Najafi, previously a Burger King franchisee in the south of England, brought the Quiznos franchise to the UK. Looking ahead to the next five years, there are tentative plans to hit 200 outlets right across the UK. This year, Quiznos will build its first stores in Scotland, where Craston sees "a tremendous demand and business opportunity".

One key difference from Subway’s approach is that Quiznos is seeking out higher rental pitches with larger sales areas, rather than clusters of small stores. The hope is to "carefully saturate the market," says Craston. "You certainly don’t want to annoy your franchisees by opening too many stores that restrict their business or their sales area."

Another difference is that Quiznos is not yet entertaining the prospect of splitting up its business into area directorships; instead it is looking to retain centralised control. "By managing everything centrally, we can ensure consistency. People need to have the same experience in every store they go to."

The consultancy PSS sources ingredients, from cakes to cookies to breads and Craston says a premium is paid for quality ingredients, including up to £11/kg for meat used in sandwiches. Sourcing suppliers has not been a problem, he adds. "Suppliers need to have faith in a business’ future. All of our suppliers have a very good long-term view of where Quiznos is going. The successes in America have meant doors have opened relatively easily for us and we’re taken seriously."

The light and airy baguette bread, made-to-order by Kent-based Speciality Breads to the US specification, is "the special ingredient" in the sandwich, he says. "If we put a traditional baguette-style bread through our toasters, people wouldn’t eat eight-inch sandwiches, because baguette-style bread is quite heavy," he explains. "Our recipe is designed to be toasted - it’s light and airy and crisps up nicely."

The 22-inch baguettes are delivered frozen into stores. "There is the perception that if you freeze bread, it loses its consistency, but the consistency is always perfect and it creates the right balance with the meat and vegetables."

It takes one minute and 45 seconds to make a sandwich and 120 sandwiches can be made per hour; Quiznos sells equal amounts of the four- and eight-inch subs and relatively few extra large 12-inch options. All ingredients are sliced, ready to meet the crucial lunchtime trade. "People will not join a long queue," he says. "The subs need to be made quickly. It’s not something people can do from the word go, but it’s important to get right or you risk losing revenue." Training courses are provided for franchisees to get up to speed in running their business.

While Quiznos offers a pricier product - a Subway regular sandwich sells for between £1.99 and £2.99 while Quiznos is £2.49 to £3.49 - Craston believes it offers value for money. "It’s a product that people are more likely to purchase out of choice rather than as a budget decision. In areas where there is a higher-than-average income, we would expect more people to make their eating decisions based on desire. That’s why we don’t want to compromise on the quality."

With competition on the high street fierce for food retailers - not least from Subway - how does Quiznos hope to mark itself out from the crowd? "It’s about identity," answers Craston. "We like to make a distinction between ourselves and ’fast food’. Quiznos has modelled itself on the delicatessen. There are a lot of brands that come and go very quickly but quality will always find a market." n