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11 Toasty Facts About Quiznos

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"Heating anything brings out the flavors in food products. I don't care what it is," Quiznos' founder once said. And they built a whole fast-casual sandwich franchise on that belief.


In the 1970s, Chef Jimmy Lambatos served as executive chef at the Colorado Mine Co. steakhouse, where he cooked for the likes of Elvis and the Rolling Stones. He left in 1978 to open Footers, his own Italian restaurant. It was while running Footers that Lambatos developed the signature toasted subs as an homage to the sandwiches he grew up with in New York City and, in 1981, he launched Quiznos.


Rick Schaden opened a Quiznos franchise in the Denver area in 1987 when he was just 22, along with a little help from his father. Over the next few years, the father-son team acquired several more stores, and in 1991, the pair purchased the entire company from the founders. At just 26, Schaden became CEO of the company—a position he held till 2007.


The restaurant chain partnered with former pro wrestler and fitness guru Ray Wilson to launch a line of gyms called 123 Fitness, which focused on 30-minute exercise classes. At the time, Schaden said "Second only to serving great sandwiches that people love, franchising is a core competency at Quiznos … Partnering with Ray, who is known as the father of fitness, on a health club concept is a winning idea."

Unfortunately, by 2008, there were twice as many closed 123 Fitness clubs as there were open ones, and many of the franchisees faced bankruptcy.


During the late '90s and early 2000s, Quiznos sat comfortably in second place among fast food sandwich joints—but far behind first-place Subway. Quiznos always maintained that their ingredients were of higher quality (to justify the higher price point), and in 2006 they launched their most aggressive advertising scheme against the sub behemoth. The campaign claimed that their Prime Rib Cheesesteak contained twice as much meat as Subway’s Cheesesteaks, and invited consumers to put their claims to the test.

"I feel so strongly that our new Prime Rib Cheesesteak is better in quality and abundance than Subway's that I am spreading the news to consumers and offering them a 100% satisfaction guarantee or they get a free sub from Quiznos,” then-CEO Schaden said at the time.


Quiznos made a valiant effort to catch Subway, topping out at over 5000 locations in 2007. But the recession hit the slightly-more-upscale Quiznos far harder than Subway. While the $5 footlong boosted the latter’s business, Quizno’s sales and market share both dropped by more than 50 percent between 2008 and 2013, landing it behind not just Subway but also Jimmy John’s. Although the chain has recovered from having declared bankruptcy in 2014, there are currently only 1500 stores worldwide.


There’s no way to sugar-coat Quiznos' struggles recently, but as the brand bounces back from bankruptcy they’ve got a new business plan in the works: conquer the overseas market. With thousands of domestic Quiznos locations shuttering in the past few years, the sandwich chain announced plans to replace them with new locations in Asia and in the Middle East where there’s high demand (but less competition) for American-style fare. Over the next decade, they plan to open 1500 restaurants in China and 100 more in Taiwan.


Long before he was the highest-paid actor on television, Jim Parsons was in need of a gig—and he found one playing a man raised by wolves, in a 2003 Quiznos commercial. It didn’t exactly make him a star. “But, it broke me into the rent stratosphere,” Parsons told CBS in 2012. “It did get some attention. It certainly gave me a conversation piece. Half the battle, and I'm not kidding, in certain casting sessions and everything, are—well, you have something interesting to say. And then if you've suckled at the teat of a Siberian Husky, you have something interesting to say. Maybe not good, but it's interesting."


They don’t really look like monkeys at all, actually. But that’s what the bizarre, heavily photoshopped, musical marsupials who appeared in a couple of Quiznos commercials in 2004 are called. Quiznos didn’t create the quirky creatures; that honor goes to British web animator Joel Veitch, who posted a video of the pair singing about the moon on his website in 2003. An employee at Quiznos' ad firm saw the video, and thought it had just the right level of attention-grabbing weirdness for a new campaign.


Talk about punching up. In 2012, then-brand new CEO Stuart Mathis made headlines when he said McDonald's cult-favorite McRib was "not a great sandwich, in my view." His disparaging remarks were actually taken largely out of context; Mathis meant to praise McDonald’s smart marketing of the sandwich. The full quote includes a desire to emulate the McRib’s success. “McDonald's has done a masterful job with the McRib sandwich. It's not a great sandwich, in my view,” Mathis said. “But they've been very effective in putting it in and taking it out, and it creates buzz. We'll try to take the same approach, for example, with our lobster sandwich, which is very popular."


One area in which the company has been super successful lately? Online viral marketing. Last year, Quiznos launched Toasty.TV, a platform for original and curated content. Their slick, high-budget parody videos were an instant hit. Their first video, "House of Thrones" (a Game of Thrones meets House of Cards parody), has over 2 million views, and later videos like "Mad X-Men" and "Startourage" have well over a million. But the videos have driven traffic not just to the brand’s YouTube page—in the first year after Toasty.TV launched, Quiznos' store locator traffic was up 76 percent.


A Toasty.TV video that was posted last month took aim at the Burning Man festival—and it looks like the festival might fight back. It’s not the mocking tone of the parody that Burning Man took issue with, it’s Quiznos’ corporate ethos. Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said in the Reno Gazette-Journal, "We are pretty proactive about protecting our 10 principles, one of which is decommodification. We get quite a number of requests each year from companies wanting to gift participants with their product or to capture imagery or video of their products at the event, and we turn them all down." His actual beef? That Quiznos used the idea of Burning Man to sell subs. But, funny 'cause it's true? That Insta filter was dope.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]


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