Every once in a while a little earworm gets stuck in my head out of nowhere: “We love the subs! ’Cause they are goooood to us!” The undeniable catchiness of the Quiznos jingle (and the grotesquerie of the spongmonkeys who sang it) burned this 2004 commercial into many brains, for better or worse. The Denver Business Journal reported at the time that certain locations’ same-store sales dropped as much as 30% after these ads ran, and some workers were even chastised by customers who said the ads terrified their children. But on the plus side, nearly 20 years later, I’m still thinking about it. And every time that jingle reemerges from my memory, I can’t help but wonder: What’s Quiznos up to these days?
The answer, in 2022, turns out to be “a whole lot, actually.” According to QSR Magazine, the sandwich chain is gearing up for a total makeover of its kitchens, service models, and menu. The restaurant might have seemingly lain dormant for the past decade or so, but we are blessedly about to enter a Quiznos renaissance. It’s about damn time.
It’s been a rough decade or so for Quiznos. In the late 2000s, the chain had nearly 5,000 locations in the United States, QSR Magazine reports, a figure that has now dipped below 200. The company declared bankruptcy in 2014, and in 2018 it was bought by private equity firm High Bluff Capital and was absorbed into the REGO Restaurant Group, which also handles Seattle-based chain Taco Del Mar. It’s the team at REGO that is now hoping to revitalize Quiznos, starting with a new location in Hobbs, New Mexico.
“The new restaurant is really a redesigned and reimagined Quiznos, built truly to evolving consumer interest,” REGO vice president of marketing and digital experience Brent Phillip told QSR. “So it is founded on extensive research that was done prior to the pandemic and through the pandemic for what should Quiznos look like and feel like in terms of consumers experience, to provide them what they’re seeking today, but also really truly ‘wow.’”
Photos of the new design seem aligned with the style we’re seeing at several fast casual chains like Chipotle, Sweetgreen, and Shake Shack: sleek and modern architecture with strategic dashes of color (in this case, bright green and neon orange). In the kitchen, the biggest changes are the addition of a flat-top grill and deep fryer, allowing for more menu creativity. The Hobbs location will also be the first to have a drive-thru, likely a response to COVID-era preferences.
But perhaps one of the most exciting changes for customers is the upgraded menu. Because Quiznos has fallen out of favor with sandwich lovers based purely on lack of locations, customers aren’t necessarily trained to expect anything in particular from the Quiznos menu and experience in the way that they are for, say, Subway. This gives the brand license to kind of do whatever it wants, so long as it stays in the very wide “toasted sub” lane. Some standouts of the new menu items include the Asian Steak Dipper, the Steakhouse Philly, the Carne Supreme, and Steak and Eggs, the latter being one of several new all-day brunch sandwiches.
As of now, Phillip says the plan is to open a handful of these new designs this year followed by dozens more in 2023, which will lead to a “rather sharp curve” of growth in 2024. The exact locations where these new stores will pop up hasn’t yet been announced, so keep a close eye on any empty storefronts near you, just in case.
Quite frankly, it’s about time Quiznos gets the attention and fix-’em-ups that it deserves. When it hit the scene in 1981, it was the first sub chain to offer toasted sandwiches, something that instantly elevates any lunch. And while places like Subway and Potbelly have tried to replicate the technique, there’s just something about the combination of the bread and oven used that make a Quiznos toast different.
Quiznos doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its innovations. Not only was it the first to normalize toasting your sandwich, it was also an early adopter of the avocado trend by incorporating guacamole heavily into its menu in the early 2000s, years before millennials would be maligned for spending all their money on avocado toast. And the current menu offers something that you can’t get at any other sandwich chain: a lobster sub.
While Quiznos isn’t a build-your-own sandwich shop in the way that Subway is, you can still customize your meal down to the size. Just want a small bite? Get the 4-inch. Starving? Go for the 12-inch. Plus the sides are way more fun than those of your typical sub chain—have you seen bacon jalapeño loaded tots or birthday cake donut holes on offer anywhere else?
And as divisive as the advertising may have been in the past, we’ve gotta give it up for the spongmonkeys, which embody the spirit of a company that’s willing to try anything. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little weird every once in a while and taking a chance on the bizarre. At the very least, it will keep people talking about Quiznos for another 20 years to come.