Quinzos' Goal: Be C-stores' Premier QSR Partner

DENVER -- Quiznos wants to become the premier quick-service restaurant (QSR) partner for convenience retailers, and to get there, the chain is revamping its presence within the channel and launching a new breakfast program specifically for c-stores.

In an interview with CSNews Online, Shultz Hartgrove, senior vice president of convenience development for Quiznos, said the company is setting its expansion sights on the convenience industry because c-stores typically command the best real estate, which will translate into a lot of eyes on the Quiznos brand.

"We also see it as a great avenue for growth because we are able to solve a dilemma for c-store operators," he added. "Everybody sells $3 gas and has the same 20-ounce Cokes and king-size candy bars. We offer a way for them to distinguish themselves."

The sandwich chain, known for its hot-from-the-oven creations, currently has 175 convenience store locations, ranging from large chains such as The Pantry to independents. Store operators become Quiznos franchisees, paying the company an annual royalty fee and making a yearly advertising-fund contribution.

Hartgrove was brought on by Quiznos six months ago to develop a new convenience store platform. After researching what other QSRs were doing in the space, talking with its retail partners and gathering feedback from consumers, he and his team developed a program that brings the Quiznos experience inside the c-store, as opposed to the current setup where the restaurants are freestanding but connected to the store.

"That forces the consumer to make the choice: Do I go in this door to go into the store, or do I go in this door to grab lunch?" he said. "We looked at how we can bring Quiznos inside and make it easier for the consumer, with the hope that they not only buy Quiznos but also other items in the c-store, raising the overall ticket and making that store a destination."

Aside from bringing the restaurant inside, Quiznos' revamped c-store platform includes a refreshed menu, which features only the top 80 percent of items from its traditional restaurants. It is designed with the core convenience customer in mind. For instance, the c-store menu offers more chicken and beef selections and fewer salads and soups. Hartgrove said this reduces inventory costs and allows for a more-efficient labor model.

The new c-store program also incorporates:
-- Quiznos' recently launched eco-friendly packaging and uniforms;
-- Point-of-sale signage, including pump-toppers, in-store danglers and static clings; and,
-- A hot grab-and-go case to be positioned next to the operator's coffee offering.

One other major aspect of Quiznos' push into the convenience industry is today's launch of a new breakfast menu available at nearly all of its convenience store locations.

"We had dabbled in breakfast at some of our traditional locations, but saw this as a big opportunity from the convenience standpoint," Hartgrove told CSNews Online. "We recognized there was a real void with the QSRs in convenience and breakfast. ... And 35 percent of all convenience store transactions are done at that drive time."

Quiznos' new c-store breakfast menu includes:
-- A country-style biscuit and egg sandwich offered with ham, sausage, etc.
-- Giant cinnamon roll with caramel topping.
-- Breakfast subs, toasted and available with eggs, cheese, ham, sausage, etc.
-- Breakfast Sammies, a spin on the breakfast taco using flatbread vs. a tortilla. Available in five varieties, the chain is positioning this as its "signature" breakfast item.

All of the breakfast items are priced in the $2-$3 range, and feature larger portions compared to what's offered by other QSR competitors, according to Hartgrove.

With all these initiatives, he said Quiznos is anticipating significant growth in the convenience channel -- and rather quickly. The chain plans to double its c-store base within the next 18 to 24 months, and then double it again within the following year.

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