The West Coast sandwich brand ramps up the rollout of three key operational developments
Last summer, Togo’s announced their three strategic priorities for the following year. Each of the three plans is designed to improve the customer experience and strengthen the sandwich brand’s position in its segment. Now that Togo’s has introduced all three priorities to select stores across their system, the brand is preparing to advance and expand their rollout.
Strategic Priority 1: New Menu Rollout
The first of Togo’s three strategic priorities is an improved menu. Implemented in the first test stores earlier this year and then rolled out system-wide, the new menu is designed to improve the quality of Togo’s offerings for customers while streamlining operations for owners, including the speed of service and the accuracy of orders.
One of the new menu’s major changes is how Togo’s portions their meat. Previous to the menu redesign, meat slices were counted out individually as each sandwich was made. For the new menu, meat is pre-portioned into larger helpings, providing more substantial sandwiches to guests while simplifying sandwich making and inventory management for employees and operators.
Togo’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Anna Nero said that the portion changes are part of a larger effort to streamline the customer and operator experiences during weekday lunch rushes.
“We are trying to make operational changes that support our franchisees and allow guests to enjoy their experience, start to finish, within 30 minutes, the usual lunch-break timeframe,” said Nero. “Improvements in the way we build sandwiches and salads will help our operators improve customer service and the brand as a whole.”
Another component of the menu redesign is an improved menu board. The boards’ previously black backgrounds have been changed to a stark white, images of key menu items have been added, and the panels are now organized by protein to simplify selection.
Dan Pearson, a 40-plus-year franchisee whose restaurant was among the first to feature the new menu, said that the updated menu boards have been a marked improvement in his store.
“People eat with their eyes,” said Pearson, “and the graphics on the new menu board are very appetizing, so people are getting the sandwiches just how they see them.”
Strategic Priority 2: Off-Site Ordering
Togo’s second strategic priority was improving the franchise’s off-site ordering and catering options, which were recently rolled out system-wide. The franchise has upgraded its off-site sales system by establishing a national network of third-party sales and delivery service providers through its online software provider, Olo.
Glenn Lunde, Togo’s president, said that off-site sales are an essential component of Togo’s quick-service lunch concept.
“More and more customers prefer to order online and pick their food up or have it delivered,” Lunde said. “Time constraints pose a greater challenge for customers now than in the past, so people want to order lunch from their desk and be back to work in 30 minutes.”
A robust off-site sales platform allows Togo’s to stay at the top of customers’ minds even when a restaurant is not in sight.
“Customers are no longer considering their lunch options in terms of the few restaurants they see on their way to and from work,” said Lunde. “They are looking online at everything available for pick-up and delivery. We will keep increasing our share of sales by increasing our mobile visibility.”
This fall, Togo’s unveiled a broad marketing campaign encouraging customers to take advantage of the brand’s off-site sales options. Outward facing window signs in Togo’s stores reminded customers to order Togo’s later, even if they can't stop in the store as they pass, and a Sunday-football campaign encouraged customers to stay on the couch and let Togo’s bring the food to them.
Strategic Priority 3: Testing of Pay-First Ordering System
The third of Togo’s three strategic priorities for the year is a new pay-first ordering system. Whereas the original system had customers order, then wait for their food before paying, the new system puts the registers at the order station so that customers can pay as they order.
The pay-first system was tested at a corporate location from April until July of this year before rolling out to two test stores by the end of the year. The model proved successful in its initial testing, reducing wait times for customers and streamlining operations on the assembly line. The testing has been so popular that there is now a franchisee wait list to implement the pay-first system.
Lunde said that the operational benefits introduced by the pay-first model are directly in line with longer-term design improvements the brand is planning.
"Pay-first is the cornerstone of our future 3.0 design concept,” said Lunde. “In everything we do, we are measuring the impact on labor, speed of service, and operational simplicity.”
Each of the three strategic priorities has now been tested and refined, and Togo’s is preparing to roll out the changes at more stores across its system.
“The execution at our corporate location has been great, and we’re excited to roll out the changes to franchisees” Lunde said. “We surveyed franchisees about the new model, and they overwhelmingly support the improvements we have made.”
What’s Ahead: Togo’s Upcoming Conference
Togo’s is currently preparing for their annual franchisee convention. On November 8th and 9th, Team Togo’s member will join up in Los Angeles at Universal Studios Hilton, where Lunde and the corporate team will discuss further implementation of the strategic priorities with franchisees across the system.
“Attending the Team Togo’s Convention is a key value for franchisees. Those coming this year will leave energized, focused on their business, and excited about the future,” said Lunde. “Our convention won’t just be a seminar on best practices. Yes, we will definitely talk about how Team Togo’s is doing and our strategic priorities under the new leadership, but there will be time that is open-ended for franchisees to talk with us and with each other. We go over in great detail what we are doing to keep moving ahead as a franchisor of choice, and how everyone is moving forward to ensure our franchisees’ success.”
For Togo’s new COO, Nader Garschi, the Team Togo’s convention is an opportunity to hear franchisee feedback in a medium that creates significant meaning for the brand.
“My role at the convention is to be part of the community, to be a good listener, and to make sure I shake every hand. I want to touch base with all our franchises and really be open to what they have to say. I’m also looking forward to a hands-on demonstration of the pay first model we’re testing. We really believe pay first is going to impact our guests’ experience and aim to show it through this simulation hands-on practice with franchisees and the corporate team,” said Garschi.