Growth | February 2013 | By Sam Oches

The World Traveler (Full Transcript)

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Ken Cutshaw is growing Quiznos International globally a few months into the job.
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In terms of Europe not being as much of a priority, is there less of a passion for American brands? Maybe they don’t care as much about American brands as someone in the Middle East might? It’s not to say that some of our competitors like Subway have not been successful; they’ve got thousands of stores in Europe. I think it’s a matter of resources for us at this point in time, and to focus on where we think the best opportunity for rapid growth would be: in the Middle East and Asia. We have commitments throughout most of Latin America. On our list eventually will be Africa, but again, it’s not a priority right now for me.

Back to your question, Europe’s taste: I think the consumer may not have the same attraction to an Americanized, global brand. Maybe it’s because Europeans and Americans have been so well traveled that they don’t see the uniqueness of the new brand coming in based in America. At the same time, we’re not discounting Europe. We have very structured and aggressive growth aspirations, so Europe is certainly on our plate. But you asked for priorities, and I think Asia and the Middle East are probably our two top priorities. Because Latin America is off the table pretty much. Our Latin American franchisee has been opening a couple countries a year, too. So we’re very excited about his growth.

What’s the message that your franchisees overseas try to communicate in their branding? Do you think they try to communicate that this is an American brand? What are they trying to sell to customers to stir up excitement for Quiznos? I do think they try to present it to the consumer that this is a global participant. You’ll often see in these restaurants a map of the world, and it will pinpoint all of the countries that this brand happens to be in, whether it’s a Quiznos or another competitor. You don’t have to do that with McDonald’s, because everyone knows that McDonald’s is in over 100 countries. But in the sense of a Quiznos, you do want to convey to them that this is a successful, global restaurant chain, so it’s a proven consumer experience and products that have been accepted not only here, but around the world.

Do you think there are lessons the domestic business can learn from international? I think there’s cross-training and cross-enhancement of skills, both from international incoming to domestic and domestic outgoing to international. It’s a good question. The one aspect of this industry that I think I’ve enjoyed as much as anything, switching from a practicing lawyer to executive leadership of a restaurant brand—because I was with a law firm before I switched over to Church’s [Chicken] back in 2005—is a practicing lawyer is always giving advice and explaining a very narrow practice area that this is how you do something. As a restaurant executive, we’re always seeking advice, we’re always asking questions, we’re always trying to find a better way to do something and also to make sure we enhance the best practices that we have within our restaurant brand. I’m not saying that practicing law is not a learning experience—it always is. But I like the transition over to being part of a global restaurant and being executive leadership of a restaurant.

One of the most exciting aspects of my new position at Quiznos is we’re in 30 countries. We have so much of the world that we still have to approach. Then even some of the countries that we’re in, we have a lot of runway to grow the brand in a few countries we’ve just started in. My visit to the Philippines a few weeks ago, just to have this caliber of master franchisee, one of the largest real estate developers in the country, named many times one of the best Johnny Rockets franchisees in the world, to see him switch his passion (at least, when I was there [laughs]) to Quiznos. He signed up for 40 restaurants, and he told the entire press corps that he’s going to build 250 restaurants. To see that kind of commitment to the brand, well beyond what he agreed to legally, his whole attitude toward the brand has just got a lot of opportunity in his country. That’s the kind of franchisee you want to have. It makes you feel good about what you’re doing and also makes it a little easier to spend the money supporting him, sending people there.

We’ve had someone there almost since he’s opened, on different shifts. This is a guy who’s already done Johnny Rockets, so he already has a supply chain, he already has all of that. But every brand has uniqueness, so even though he can piggyback off some of that success from previous multiunit operations, you still have to put your own touches to it, not just with the products, but also with logistics and support of the restaurant development.

Is there a challenge to sustaining that franchisee excitement? It’s great to get that partner who’s passionate for the brand, but you obviously have to be able to sustain that. Part of that, I’m sure, is corporate support and knowing that you’ve got their back, but are there other ways to drum that up? I’m not trying to belittle your question, but as long as the sales stay up, their passion stays up (laughs). So I think whatever we can do to keep the sales up. We try to help them with a marketing calendar, with promotional items. We try to make recommendations on limited-time offerings. We send them recommendations because, as a franchisor talking to a master franchisee in his own country, we know our brand better than he does, but we don’t know the market better than he does. So we can suggest an LTO that may have done well in another market, may have done well in the Philippines, did well in Singapore, but there are different taste preferences, and we still have to rely upon the local franchisee, their decision. We can show how to do proper marketing, not only on a national level, but on a local-store level.

I think you keep their drive going in the right direction, and also explain to them the honeymoon of any restaurant—when they open initially, they’re not going to sustain those same sales levels. But as they level off, we try to build a pattern that they will maintain a consistent level of sales and see a little bit of growth, and see that positive comp year over year. That’s going to keep the passion.

One year from now, you and I sit down again to talk. What do you hope to share with me? What do you hope to have accomplished? I hope to have led this team that we’re now just putting together, and have seen maturity of this team to where they’re providing 100 percent support for our franchisees, from not only the grand opening, but also the consistent training. To have experts within my team that are trusted and that our franchises will call. They don’t have to call me, they can call our director for supply chain, because they might have an issue with their distributor. We can’t always correct the issue for them immediately, because we’re not in their country. But we can provide best practices we’ve seen not only in our system, but also all of our people have been with other brands. So they’ve learned from other brands as well.

I hope to tell you that we have built this team that supports our franchisee. I hope to tell you that we’ve added at least three to four new countries to the Quiznos global system. And I hope to tell you that we have resolved any differences we’ve had with masters that now are wanting to grow but are asking us questions like, “What are the next best steps?” And they’ll come back and say, “You gave me good advice, so now I’ve grown my store count by 20 percent,” or whatever. I hope to tell you that I’ve become the voice of the master franchisees, and at the same time, maintained the core values of Quiznos and made sure there’s a consistent brand image and a consistent customer experience around the world.

I hope to tell you that I’ve had a lot of fun over the last year, and that it’s just getting better as time goes on. And I also hope to tell you that I’ve visited every master franchisee, which I’ve pledged to do by the time we sit down next year.

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