The Togo’s Story
For generations, Togo’s sandwich franchises have been delighting guests with a laid-back approach to a best-in-class sandwich
Togo’s was started in San Jose in 1971 by a young college student with a big appetite and a little money. He bought a small sandwich shack near San Jose State University. The tiny building, constructed in 1919, gave Togo’s its name. The building barely had any room for guests, and only four guests could fit in the waiting area, so all the sandwiches were sold “to go.” Soon Togo’s was a favorite sandwich shop.
The building may have been small, but the sandwiches were big. The young college student made sandwiches the way he liked them — made-to-order and stuffed with fresh ingredients. Before long, happy guests and entrepreneurs were clamoring to partner and open their own Togo’s locations. A second restaurant opened in 1974 in downtown San Jose, and franchising began in the late 1970s. Togo’s fandom quickly spread beyond San Jose and throughout California.
What the former president of Baskin-Robbins saw in Togo’s sandwich franchises
Togo’s success garnered a lot of attention, and in 1997 one of the biggest franchising companies in the world purchased the brand. Dunkin’ Brands, which owns Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, had been searching for a great sandwich brand to add to its portfolio. Tony Gioia, who was president of Baskin-Robbins at the time, and a team of investors studied 30 sandwich franchises. Tony already knew Togo’s as a guest (he’s been ordering our sandwiches since the 1980s), and as he learned more about the business model, he fell in love with it as a business opportunity, too.
“Togo’s offers guests good value, quality ingredients, and excellent service, and that all comes together in the deli-style sandwiches that guests love,” Tony says. “Guests are passionate about Togo’s, and they love our big, fresh, meaty sandwiches made just the way they like.”
(What’s Tony’s order? The No. 24: turkey and avocado on honey wheat bread, which is made with low-sodium turkey breast and two large scoops of Hass avocado. He asks for lettuce, tomatoes, and pepperoncinis. “It’s to die for.”)
Tony knew he could build upon Togo’s strengths — big, fresh, meaty sandwiches made with great ingredients and friendly one-on-one service — by building a team of restaurant industry veterans to guide the brand and help franchisees. He also draws upon his own extensive success managing and growing businesses, including Tully’s Coffee, Southwest Supermarkets, Robeks, PepsiCo, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Best sandwich franchise: how our menu evolved
Togo’s has a unique culture and heritage, and it’s reflected on our menu boards. Since we custom-build every sandwich, we offer a near-infinite list of flavor combinations. Rather than force guests to rattle off a huge list of ingredients for their sandwiches, we assigned numbers to our most popular items.
Over the years, we’ve developed a ton of great recipes. For simplicity’s sake, not all of them are on the menu board. Only the most popular sandwiches or numbers appear on the menu… But you can still order your favorite.
Why is our menu numbering this way? Because our guests are unusually loyal. Guests use the numbers as a shortcut and they know their favorite sandwich numbers by heart. For instance, most of our guests don’t ask for a “turkey and avocado” sandwich — they ask for a No. 24.
The future of Togo’s sandwich franchise
Togo’s has a strong fan base in California and a team of restaurant industry experts that is working to expand the brand’s footprint throughout the West.
Our brand is well-known in the West, thanks to our big, fresh, meaty sandwiches and one-on-one service. Quality is a hallmark of the Togo’s experience, and it’s one of the reasons we continue to win new guests and enjoy the loyalty of longtime patrons.
Here’s what restaurant industry research company Technomic recently wrote about sandwich concepts and consumer sentiment:
“Today’s consumers place higher importance on quality and quantity, as well as the appetizing appearance of sandwich ingredients. Up-and-comers in the fast-casual segment have capitalized on these demands and are successfully competing for share of stomach with the dominant larger players.”
“Quality sandwich ingredients are a must,” said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic. “In order for sandwich operators to drive traffic and steal share, they have to strengthen the quality perception by promoting freshness and customization opportunities, while giving guests a more interesting range of toppings, breads, and proteins that emphasize variety.”
Big sandwiches, with fresh, quality ingredients, custom-built for each guest. That sounds a lot like Togo’s, doesn’t it?