The Quiznos Master LLC

views updated

The Quiznos Master LLC

1475 Lawrence St., Ste. 400
Denver, Colorado 80202
Telephone: (720) 359-3300
Fax: (720) 359-3399
Web site:



By the end of 2004, Quiznos, a chain of sub sandwich shops run by parent company Quiznos Master LLC, had grown to more than 2,500 restaurants and had hit the $1 billion sales mark. In addition, Quiznos had established a brand identity through a four-year run of over-the-top advertising campaigns, featuring everything from the company's cofounder making sandwiches in his underwear to guitar-strumming, singing rodents. But the company wanted to move in a new direction by distancing itself from the fast-food label of other sub sandwich shops and joining the ranks of the rapidly expanding niche of fast-casual restaurants, which were associated with higher-quality food. Quiznos also hoped to increase consumer awareness of its products—fresh, made-to-order sandwiches on toasted breads—by introducing a new tagline, "Mmmm … Toasty."

In 2005 Quiznos launched a new marketing campaign created by Los Angeles-based ad agency Siltanen & Partners that featured the talking infant "Baby Bob" (former star of a 2002 sitcom of the same name) as spokesman. The eight-month-old genius spoke in an adult voice, lip-synching via computer animation. Estimated, according to Adweek, to be worth as much as $60 million, the campaign kicked off with a spot in which Baby Bob told viewers that he would love to eat a Quiznos sandwich but that he had no teeth. While his mother enjoyed the sub, Bob was fed strained peas. "I love the gal, but that's just wrong," Baby Bob said. The campaign was expanded to include the Internet and radio along with additional television spots.

"Baby Bob" was a hit with most consumers, with the ads rating in the top 10 for recall and likeability four out of the five months following its launch, according to Advertising Age. Further, by using a spokesman described as a 40-year-old man trapped in a baby's body, the ads maintained the edginess that Quiznos had created with its earlier campaigns, albeit toned down to appeal to an older, more sophisticated audience. By the third week into the "Baby Bob" campaign, Quiznos had reported a 9 percent increase in same-store sales.


In 1981 Quiznos was a single restaurant serving sub sandwiches in Denver, Colorado. By 2000 the chain had grown to 1,000 restaurants and was secure in the number three spot behind Subway (number one) and Blimpie International, Inc. Hoping to attract consumers looking for more than a traditional cold sandwich, Quiznos began making efforts to distinguish itself in the submarine sandwich shop arena and to convince consumers it was no ordinary fast-food restaurant. Instead, Quiznos planned to position its restaurants in the growing field of fast-casual foods, alongside chains such as Boston Market and Noodles & Co. John Hamburger, president of Franchise Times Corp. (publisher of news for the franchising industry), told the Denver Post, "Fast-casual has been winning customers because of food quality, not price. If Quiznos is going down that route, they're going to distinguish themselves from the Subways, Blimpies and about 50 other sub chains out there."

To create name recognition for its expanding chain, beginning in 2000 Quiznos launched a series of sometimes controversial or bizarre marketing campaigns depicting quirky characters in unconventional situations. One spot featured a man grabbing a sandwich from his dog, which had pulled it off the kitchen counter. The man was then shown on the floor eating the sandwich. In another spot a man and a woman were walking down the street when the woman spotted an empty Quiznos sandwich wrapper in the trash. She pulled the wrapper out of the garbage, then licked the wrapper clean. Those spots were followed three years later by commercials featuring Quiznos cofounder Jimmy Lambatos, nicknamed "Chef Jimmy," who was so obsessed with making the perfect sandwich that he forgot to put on his pants. In another TV spot a woman was shown comparing sub sandwiches in a competitor's test kitchen. When she chose a toasted Quiznos sub rather than the untoasted sandwich the tester was pushing, she was stuck in the neck with a dart by the tester. Another featured a businessman eating an untoasted sub; he was asked if he "was raised by wolves," the implication being that to eat such a sandwich was uncivilized. He was then shown in a flashback nursing from a female wolf. In 2004 came the "Spongemonkeys," strange, rodent-like, guitar-playing creatures screeching the praises of Quiznos subs.

The ad campaigns worked. While not all comments were positive, awareness of the brand had been created; people were talking about Quiznos. It was time to shift focus from branding to the product itself. The company began airing food-focused television spots and introduced the theme "Mmmm … Toasty." In 2005 the company started using a new spokesman, Baby Bob, described by the company as "a 40-year-old man trapped in a baby's body" who would love to eat the subs but lacked the molars. Baby Bob had been created in 1997 by Siltanen & Partners as spokesperson for a series of commercials directing consumers to a website, (which later went off-line). In 2002 the child prodigy appeared in a short-lived television show, "Baby Bob," that aired on CBS.


Early marketing campaigns for Quiznos were aimed at men between the ages of 18 and 24—typical fast-food customers—and were designed to make the brand seem cool to that audience. While still slightly offbeat, the "Baby Bob" campaign focused on the quality of the chain's product to attract older, more sophisticated consumers as well as families.

To further connect with families, Quiznos introduced a special Mother's Day promotion through its website that enabled people to E-mail personalized greetings from Baby Bob to their moms. Trey Hall, chief marketing officer for Quiznos, said to Business Wire, "Due to the popularity of the Quiznos ads that feature Baby Bob, we developed a fun, easy way for people—young and old—to send Mom a special, personalized message from her favorite 'spokesbaby.'"


Quiznos was known for its quirky, sometimes over-the-top advertising, from "Chef Jimmy," who was so excited about his Quiznos sub that he failed to notice that his pet parakeet had died, to a woman getting stuck in the neck with a dart when she chose a toasted Quiznos sub over a cold sandwich offered by the competition. The ads drew plenty of attention, not all of it good. "Chef Jimmy" raised the ire of animal lovers, including one who complained in a letter to the chain's ad agency, "Do you realize that the sight of a dead bird can be very traumatic to bird lovers?"

Despite the buzz created by the offbeat ads, none of the chain's marketing efforts attracted attention equal to its television spots featuring the computer-generated "Spongemonkeys." Response to the tone-deaf, rodent-like creatures was phenomenal; Quiznos received 30,000 E-mails, phone calls, and messages during the month following the launch of the campaign, most of them complaints about the use of rat-like creatures to sell food. After a seven-month run, the company canceled the "Spongemonkeys" and shifted its focus to its products.


In 2005 Subway sandwich shops boasted 18,000 locations, significantly more than the 3,000 restaurants owned by Quiznos. Subway was, however, feeling the pressure of competition from Quiznos. Technomics, a restaurant consulting firm based in Chicago, noted that in 2004 Subway's sales grew 10 percent, while those of Quiznos grew 37 percent. In what Thuy-Doan Le, writing for the Sacramento Bee, described as the "battle of the buns," Subway responded to upstart Quiznos's push for market share by introducing its own line of toasted subs. Le wrote, "While burgers and fries have long been the staple of America's carryout lunch, their dominance is waning. And scrambling to lure those bored or bothered by burgers are sandwich chains." A Subway spokesman told Le that it considered its key competitors to be large chains such as McDonald's and Burger King. Subway stated further that it did not consider itself to be in direct competition with Quiznos, but rather that when a Quiznos opened a shop near a Subway, it was in fact an advantage because it helped direct consumers' attention away from typical fast-food fare. "If someone starts thinking sandwiches, instead of burgers and fries, they eventually could be our customer," the spokesman explained.

While Subway and Quiznos battled the submarine wars, Blimpie International, Inc., founded in 1964, recognized that trouble had arrived when Quiznos overtook Blimpie to claim the number two spot in the sub sandwich market. In 2005 Blimpie announced plans to reinvigorate its brand with redesigned restaurants, an updated logo, and new menu offerings such as panini-grilled sandwiches. The chain also unveiled a new slogan, "It's not just a sandwich—it's a BLIMPIE." According to PR Newswire, Mark Mears, the company's chief marketing officer, said, "We have always been an innovator in menu concepts … Now our brand reflects this forward thinking positioning, transforming Blimpie from its heritage as a traditional neighborhood sub shop to a more consumer-driven, contemporary deli."


Quiznos was aggressively gaining ground in the submarine sandwich wars. With its warm, crispy rolls and television and radio spots that proclaimed, "Mmmm … Toasty," consumers were increasingly aware of the chain and what it had to offer. The aggression carried over into Quiznos marketing with advertising that included offbeat humor to capture the attention of consumers. According to Quiznos, the "Baby Bob" campaign was created to stand out from other advertising on television. But the company had shifted from push-the-envelope marketing, such as its short-lived and sometimes controversial "Spongemonkeys" campaign, which was designed to create name recognition, to entertaining but less edgy product-focused advertising. Company executives explained that the goal in the new marketing was to make consumers be more aware of the food it offered than of the spokescreatures promoting the product. Having a cuddly, eight-month-old baby genius talking about Quiznos sandwiches, his mouth moving in time with the words by way of computer animation, achieved the company's goals of maintaining quirky humor in its ads while focusing on the food.

Television spots, which debuted during the hit shows Desperate Housewives and 24, had Baby Bob in a variety of situations involving a tasty Quiznos sub that was just out of his reach; but given his lack of molars he could not have eaten the sandwich anyway. In one spot to promote the chain's line of Real Deal sandwiches (which offered prices comparable to other chains' value menus), Baby Bob was perched on a director's chair talking to the camera about how much he would love to eat a Quiznos sandwich but that he had no teeth. "But, when my molars grow in, I'm all over the stuff," he announced in the deep voice of a 40-year-old man. In another spot, which promoted the Chicken Milano Chicken Sub, the precocious infant was in Italy being driven around in a motorcycle sidecar by a gorgeous model. Of the sandwich, he stated, "It's not quite like riding around Milan with an Italian supermodel, but it's close." For another spot Bob took a seat on a park bench to talk about the great Angus steak subs his dad was always bringing home from Quiznos. He concluded, "One day when the old man's not looking, Sayonara." All the ads end with the tagline, "Mmmm … Toasty."


In a press release the company described "Baby Bob" as "a genius … his brains and infinite knowledge are both a blessing and a curse." The clever child who started talking at three months old turned out to be a blessing for Quiznos's marketing. While many of the chain's earlier campaigns resulted in negative feedback, following its launch "Baby Bob" consistently ranked among the top 10 commercials for likeability and consumer recall in four of its first five months, and it ranked first in January, according to Advertising Age. In addition, Quiznos reported a 9 percent increase in same-store sales within three weeks of the first "Baby Bob" television spots. The company also reported that the number of visits to the Quiznos website reached record numbers, and E-mails from fans who loved the "Baby Bob" commercials poured into company headquarters. The campaign was so successful that it continued into 2005 with a new batch of television spots.


Apuzzo, Matt. "Subway, Quiznos Fight, but Often on Same Side." Houston Chronicle, August 1, 2005.

"Blimpie Brand Repositioning Becomes Reality." PR Newswire, March 23, 2005.

Brand, Rachel. "Feathers Fly over Quiznos Ad: 'Dead' Parakeet in Super Bowl Segment Sparks Angry E-mails." Denver Rocky Mountain News, January 28, 2003.

Cebrzynski, Greg. "Verdict In on Three New TV Campaigns." Nation's Restaurant News, February 18, 2002.

Forgrieve, Janet. "Quiznos Quietly Quits Quirky Ads: Chain's New Spots Focus on the Food, Not Offbeat Setups." Denver Rocky Mountain News, July 30, 2004.

Hopkins, Brent. "Sandwich Shops Are Stacking Up against Hamburger Chains." Los Angeles Daily News, July 11, 2003.

Keen, Russ. "Aberdeen, S.D., Residents Continue to Eat at Quizno's despite Annoying Ads." Aberdeen (SD) American News, March 3, 2004.

Le, Thuy-Doan. "Sandwich Wars." Sacramento Bee, August 6, 2005.

MacArthur, Kate. "Quizno's Axes Spongemonkey Spokesthings; Franchisees Welcome Decision." Advertising Age, August 2, 2004.

―――――――. "Subway Heats Up in Fighting Off Underdog Quiznos." Advertising Age, June 14, 2004.

Pate, Kelly. "Owners Hope to Distinguish Quizno's Sub Shops with Fast-Casual Approach." Denver Post, February 2, 2003.

Pennington, April Y. "Neck and Neck: Being No. 1 in the Franchise Race Has Its Advantages, but There Will Always Be Others Nipping at Your Heels." Entrepreneur, January 1, 2004.

Schmelzer, Randi. "Baby Bob Is Back for Quiznos." Adweek, January 7, 2005.

Walker, Andrea. "U.S. Advertisers Use New Tactics of Cutting 'Clutter' to Reach Target Audience." Baltimore Sun, May 12, 2004.

                                            Rayna Bailey