Before becoming a multi-unit franchisee with one of the of sandwich industry’s most-loved brands, Togo’s, Ali Navabpour was first working in the high-tech field.
But after retiring from the industry after almost 25 years, Navabpour was ready for something completely different—he wanted a career that would allow him more flexibility and the freedom to direct his own life. That’s when he looked into franchising opportunities.
“When I retired from the high-tech industry, I started to do some consulting on the side. This led me to do some work with Dunkin’ Brands, which, at the time, owned both Togo’s and Baskin Robbins. When I learned that these two brands were eyeing California for further development, it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Navabpour said. “It would certainly be a complete 180 from what I was used to. But this was a chance to leave behind a high-pressure environment and finally become my own boss.”
Today, nearly 18 years later, Navabpour is the proud owner of two Togo’s restaurants throughout Fremont, California—one of which is gearing up for its grand opening. And he credits the support from Togo’s corporate team for helping to make it all happen.
“Transitioning from a field that I had known for 25 years into a new industry that I knew little about was certainly challenging. Not only did I have to learn the principles of the trade, but I also had to learn how to run a business,” Navabpour said. “The training and support that Togo’s provided was essential. You quickly realize that every little detail they put in place during the training process is there for a reason, and it prepared me for where I am today very well.”
When a franchisee signs a deal to become a Togo’s owner, they’re enrolled in an extensive training program that covers all aspects of restaurant operations. The training includes eight hours of food safety certification; a week of classroom training at Togo’s headquarters in San Jose (which covers business operations, bookkeeping, marketing and systems for overseeing and managing the business); three weeks of on-the-job operations training at a Togo’s restaurant, learning how to make sandwiches, managing inventory and using the point of sale system.
But according to Navabpour, it’s ultimately Togos’ ongoing support that really sets the brand apart.
“Over the years, I found that the key to strong performance is execution to brand standards. If you manage your people, oversee your inventory, ensure everyone is properly trained, you’ll be able to control costs and create better margins,” Navabpour said. “If you hire friendly people, you’ll be able to provide great service that keeps guests coming back, too. It sounds simple, but there are a lot of pieces that you learn about that need to all come together. It was invaluable having that extra set of eyes.”
Today, Navabpour is bringing that same knowledge he picked up while operating his first location over the past 18 years to his second location. After experiencing near-record-breaking success with his catering efforts, he was drawn to this new location due to its proximity to dozens of major businesses and corporations. In the future, this will give Navabpour the chance to drive his catering efforts and off-premise sales.
“What excites me most about my future with Togo’s is that I can take my business to any level—you can grow as much as you want, as long as you put in the hard work. Whether it’s my third, fourth or fifth restaurant, I’m hopeful that my journey with Togo’s in the years ahead will be a successful one,” Navabpour said. “At Togo’s, I know that if I want to grow and the market allows, it will not be a problem.”
With nearly 300 restaurants that are either open or under development in six states throughout the country, Navabpour is one of many franchisees helping to strategically expand the brand’s footprint throughout the Bay Area. After getting its start in San Jose back in 1971, Togo’s has long thrived in the area. And now, in an effort to reach more customers than ever before, the brand has announced a refocused development effort in the very community that helped Togo’s get its start.
“Togo’s fans have spoken—they want more locations in their neighborhoods and near their workplace. As the market has continued to grow—both with its businesses and its population—we’ve made it a top priority to help make that happen,” said Todd Peterson, chief development officer for Togo’s. “Franchisees now have an incredible opportunity to join an established brand in a prime market where our guests are currently underserved. Our goal is to make Togo’s an option for anyone seeking a high quality sandwich in a great environment.”
Over the next five years, Togo’s is aiming to add 15 to 20 additional locations throughout the Bay Area—especially in Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Benicia, Rohnert Park, San Rafael, San Bruno, Oakland and San Francisco. And with the help of dedicated franchisees like Navabpour, Peterson is confident that it’s a development goal that’s well within sight.
“We are looking to attract franchisees with a passion for our product.,” Peterson said. “once you partner with us, our franchise system is designed to help you succeed by providing support in all areas of business operation—from construction to operations to marketing. Togo’s truly works with our partners every step of the way.”